Strength spans generations in Jim Kelly's family

Jim Kelly didn't think he'd make this Father's Day -- not during the worst of it.

Last year, the Hall of Fame quarterback took on his toughest opponent, oral cancer, for a second time, and his chances didn't look good.

When he was so sick, he couldn't even eat, reports CBS News correspondent Jeff Glor.

"When they were putting the feeding tube in, I thought okay, this is not good," Kelly said. "When they broke the news to me, I really broke down. I don't know if I've cried that hard ever because I thought, 'Okay, this is the end.'"

It was not.

More than a year after Kelly's most serious battle with oral cancer began, doctors say there is no evidence of the disease in his jaw.

His daughter, Erin, has written a book about the family's journey, called "Kelly Tough."

She remembered one moment when she struggled with what to write on a card for her dad. The message: "I love you more than a million footballs."

"I think I just didn't know how to express how much I loved my daddy, that that just seemed like the perfect thing because he was a quarterback, he loves footballs," Erin said. "I remember just stopping and looking at this card and just not knowing what to say and what to do, and I just broke down crying and it hit me how much Father's Day and how much everyday means to me."

Erin just finished her sophomore year of college. Sister Camryn finished her sophomore year of high school. The family, including wife Jill, is all back together in Orchard Park, New York, no longer taking care of Kelly around the clock in New York City.

It has been the Kellys' second struggle with a terrible disease. Their son Hunter, who had a rare neurological disorder called Krabbe disease, died at the age of 8 in 2005. Last year, Jill said what happened to Hunter changed Kelly. Kelly's own cancer recovery in the past year has changed him further.

"We don't remember the Jim before cancer. We look at pictures of him and obviously he's different in that sense, but he's just a different person," Jill said.

"I'm more patient with people than I was in the past. I'm more forgiving to people, now that I have been through a lot, and lot of that comes from [Jill]," Kelly said.

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Jim Kelly and daughter Erin during a hunting outing
Courtesy of the Kelly family

Kelly said he's tried to put everything in his life on fast forward. More family trips, especially, including hunting trips with Erin.

Erin said her dad is tougher than he was before.

"I love knowing every single day when I wake up that he's healed and that he is cancer-free," Erin said. "You know we're in the kitchen doing push-ups on the counter and he is like, 'Alright, Erin, let's go, I gotta get my strength back.'"

Training to get him back to full health is part of the father-daughter bond, she said.

Kelly still has scans to check for cancer every three months. There is medication every day. But every moment he treasures because it's one he thought he might never have.

"I wish I could wake up every day and not have pain. But I have come to the conclusion that that will probably be my life. But, I'm here, and that's all that counts," Kelly said with a smile.