Jim Kelly Keeps it Positive After Facing Skin Cancer Four Times
- Former Buffalo Bills QB Jim Kelly, 62, likes to keep it positive — even after facing skin cancer on four separate occasions.
- The former QB was first diagnosed in 2013, and then faced cancer again in 2014, 2018, and 2021.
- After his experience, he urges his fans to be aware of the signs of skin cancer and to seek out answers from a doctor if anything seems awry.
- Dermatologists recommend taking a close look at the skin all over your body at least once a month and getting any new or changing marks or moles checked out.
The NFL legend certainly does have a lot to be grateful for. In an interview with SurvivorNet last year, Kelly explained that over the past decade, he has dealt with multiple bouts of skin cancer, including basal cell carcinoma in 2021, which required some intense treatment — but he hasn’t let the health troubles keep him down.Read More
The “handsome dude’s” cancer journey has in many ways been just as unconventional as his football career.
He is now helping others like him share their stories as well by teaming up with Merck as part of the Your Cancer Story initiative, which supports individuals at every stage of the cancer journey.
“I’ve been diagnosed four times. Now, the one time was my first time. The second time was when they gave me a less than 10% chance of living and said I was stage IV. And the third time, well, I have been told to put my foot in my mouth a few times, but I’m never literally put my whole fibula in my mouth,” Kelly recounted while detailing his three bouts with squamous cell carcinoma in 2013, 2014 and 2018.
“Gosh, what they did. They took my fibula bone out and in a 12-hour surgery removed my whole upper jaw, broke it into four pieces, and put screws in.”
That 2018 procedure also used skin from his arm and an artery from his leg to connect everything in place.
He had been cancer-free for close to three years after that, until his skin cancer diagnosis in 2021. “And here I am today,” he added.
Kelly seems to have kept that optimism going ever since the last diagnosis and treatment. He regularly takes to his social media accounts to share updates about his life with his family — always with an utmost air of positivity.
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Being Aware of Skin Cancer Symptoms
As a four-time cancer survivor, Kelly urges anyone dealing with new or unusual symptoms to get those checked out. In his case, he was experiencing pain in his mouth — but thought he may just need to see the dentist.
“I was one of those guys, where my mouth was hurt for a while. I thought it was a root canal. Well, I went through like four or five root canals before somebody said I should get a biopsy. I did. Boom. Cancer,” Kelly said.
“And just for so many people, men, and women, if something does not feel right, then go and get it checked. Don’t wait because it could be the difference between life or death or what you will go through pain-wise.”
If a new patch, sore, or nodule appears on the body — including on the lips or mouth — this could be a sign of skin cancer and it warrants a trip to the doctor to figure it out.
Checking for Skin Cancer
Doing regular self-checks on your skin is important to find skin cancer early. If you’re high-risk, it’s especially vital. Dr. Cecilia Larocca, a dermatologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, recommends looking at your skin once a month for anything suspicious — and using the acronym ABCDE as a checklist:
- Asymmetrical moles: if you drew a line straight down the center of the mole, would the sides match?
- Borders: irregular, jagged, not smooth; can also stand for bleeding
- Colors: multiple distinct colors in the mole
- Diameter: larger than 6mm, about the size of a pencil head eraser
- Evolution: This may be the most important, anything that is changing over time such as gaining color, losing color, painful, itching, hurting, changing shape, etc.
Dr. Larocca emphasizes that any mole that’s changing in appearance or causing symptoms should be looked at by a dermatologist as soon as possible. Black moles of any kind are also at high risk for melanoma.
If you notice any of these changes, see your dermatologist for a full skin assessment. Early detection of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, improves your chances for successful treatment.
Contributing: SurvivorNet Staff