If your family puts on the football game on Thanksgiving Day, the sight of the Buffalo Bills — playing its first game on the holiday since 1994, against the Dallas Cowboys — might bring back memories of quarterback Jim Kelly, the team’s former starting quarterback, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002.
It’s been two-and-a-half decades since Kelly hung up his football gear — and he’s been through a lot in the years since. Kelly’s Thanksgiving Day message that aired on CBS Sports brought thousands of people to tears, his message of gratitude resonating far beyond the devoted Buffalo Bills fanbase.
Jim Kelly has dealt with adversity on and off the field.Read MoreDespite everything he’s been through, he’s still thankful today. pic.twitter.com/R5vxlz4WFt
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) November 28, 2019
Kelly, 59, who lost his only son, Hunter, to a rare genetic disease, has faced three bouts of jaw cancer, and as a result had his entire jaw removed and reconstructed. Kelly has faced tremendous loss and devastation, but in a conversation with SurvivorNet in September, he shared how grateful he is for his “Four Fs”: Faith, Family, Friends, and Fans — and the incredible caregivers in his life.
“I came around to the sharing,” Kelly remembers. “I started to realize, ‘If I’m gonna get through this, I’m going to need as many prayers as possible.”
View this post on Instagram
‘Caregivers Are the Most Important People’
At Kelly’s lowest point, he said, he was in the hospital with an unrecognizable face, and was unable to speak or eat. His wife and daughters would enter the hospital room with huge smiles on their faces, he recalled, bringing with them a burst of positive energy.
“My girls would say, ‘Daddy, you look so great today!’ even though I definitely didn’t. And they’d give me huge hugs. Kellys are huggers.”
His brothers, he said, gave him the tough love treatment that he needed just as much.
“They’d walk in and say, ‘How ya feeling today?’ And I would say ‘not so good.’ And they’d say, ‘Get up! We’re going for a walk!’”
In his own moments of vulnerability, Kelly said, he saw in his family what he had been during Hunter’s brief life: People who showed up and who cared.
“Caregivers are the most important people walking around any hospital,” Kelly said.. “They’re the most important people, period.”