IT WAS while in Maine last week that an email from the team appeared in my laptop.
In it was Jim Kelly’s statement regarding his recently having been diagnosed with squamous-cell cancer in his upper jaw.
I immediately recalled the Hall of Fame quarterback’s birth date — Valentine’s Day, 1960 — meaning he was a “young” 53-year-old faced with a life-threatening illness.
It seemed unfair that the QB who led Buffalo to four straight Super Bowls, then endured his son Hunter’s death, at age 8, from Krabbe disease, an inherited disorder in the nervous system, was being tested again.
In the last two years, Kelly had two discs replaced and a metal plate inserted in his lower back, then surgery for a double hernia and, finally, last December, another plate surgically implanted, this one in his neck.
Now it’s cancer ... a type that afflicted over 50,000 Americans in 2012.
But what jumped out at me was a statistic in one of the sidebar stories about Kelly’s condition. It stated that the survival rate for this type of cancer, over five years, is just above 50 percent.
In my mind, looking at it in reverse, that meant the mortality rate in that span is just under half ... and it spoke to the seriousness of Kelly’s illness.
That view changed a bit after talking to a couple of physician friends.
One told me, “the phrasing is deceptive. It’s not exactly ‘the glass is half full or half empty.’
“What it’s really saying is that, after five years, over 50 percent who have it are cured. This is a cancer that can be treated and is curable.”
Another doctor added, “There are many things which can affect that cancer ... a key one is whether they got it all (in surgery) and that it hasn’t spread (Kelly maintains it hasn’t). If it had gotten to the lymph nodes, the situation is entirely different because then the cancer could go anywhere.
“With head and neck cancers, the outlook can be affected by a number of factors ... where it’s located, what stage it’s in, the individual’s age and health. All of those circumstance’s can alter both the prognosis and treatment.”
He added, “The key thing that Jim Kelly has going for him is that he’s a healthy person and it appears they caught the disease early.”
Still, while we’ve gotten used to hearing encouraging improvement in survival rates for testicular and breast cancers, clearly Kelly’s affliction is a more risky and challenging form of the disease.
WHEN BUFFALO waived quarterback Tarvaris Jackson on Monday, it stood as an indictment of both recently-retired general manager Buddy Nix and fired coach Chan Gailey.
Jackson, 17-17 as a starter with Minnesota and Seattle, was acquired from the Seahawks for a seventh-round draft choice late last August after the Bills quit on Vince Young’s bid to be the No. 3 QB.
The thought was that Jackson, making just north of $1 million a season, would beat out the spectacularly unimpressive Tyler Thigpen as Ryan’s Fitzpatrick backup.
But Gailey, who had a loyalty to Thigpen from their days together in Kansas City, never once activated Jackson for a game.
As the season went on, and Fitzpatrick struggled, Gailey got the inevitable questions about whether Jackson was “too dumb” to pick up the offense.
But the coach always countered that it had nothing to do with IQ but rather that Thigpen had more experience in the nuances of Buffalo’s attack.
Still, couldn’t a team going nowhere find a way to get a new face onto the field ... if only to establish that he couldn’t play?
Instead, all Jackson did, in nine months, was collect the easiest seven figures of his life ... and that’s on Nix and Gailey.
Why did they invest a draft choice and a generous salary in a player they ultimately wouldn’t use?
That’s the kind of thinking and planning that has kept the Bills out of the postseason for 13 years.
And here’s the irony.
Reportedly, in the next few days, Jackson will re-sign with the Seahawks.
Russell Wilson, last year’s third-round draft pick, has established himself as Seattle’s quarterback of the future and is a budding star. But with backup Matt Flynn gone via free agency, the current No. 2 QB is journeyman Brady Quinn, making Jackson’s return appealing ... and an upgrade.
Thus, Buffalo had a one-year rental — for over a million bucks — of a player it never used, at the price of a seventh-round draft pick.
It’s sheer genius, I tell ya.
(Chuck Pollock, the Times Herald sports editor, can be reached at email@example.com)