Erin Kelly opens up about her tough, but “cuddly,” family

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — In the introduction to her book, Jim and Jill Kelly’s daughter Erin says she would prefer that it didn’t exist at all. Cancer, she says, was not supposed to be part of her story. Now she is opening up about how her family confronted this chapter of their lives with the faith that has helped them through tough times before.

Erin Kelly is like most college kids this time of year – thrilled to be back home for the summer and spending time with her family. Especially her dad.

“Whether it’s watching ESPN with him, or out in the woods hunting,” Erin recently told News 4 at her family’s home in Orchard Park. “Now more than I ever have before because I am cherishing every moment with him.”

That’s because a year ago, Erin, her mom Jill, and her sister Cameron weren’t relaxing at home with Jim. He was fighting cancer, and they were were at his bedside.

“I remember that moment and that picture as if it were yesterday,” Erin said of a photo that she posted to Instagram last year. It shows her and her father embracing in the hospital while he was going through treatment. “I was in shock and in awe at the amount of people who responded to that picture the way they did.”

The image was so powerful she made it the cover of her new book, Kelly Tough.

“They saw who we are in this photo. That we weren’t trying to put on an image. This is just a father and a daughter. A father who’s struggling, and a daughter who is coming behind him.”

The Kellys are so close that 20-year-old Erin still sometimes calls her parents “mommy and daddy.” Sports Illustrated’s Peter King even describes them as “cuddly” in his forward to her book.

“We’ve gone through a lot together, all of us. Watching my brother go through the disease that he went through, and now watching my dad go through cancer,” Erin explained. “And we are cuddly, we are a very affectionate family. And we’ve had to be.”

Now Erin hopes to share some of that affection – along with her family’s signature toughness – with their fans.

“People are reaching out to me, saying I’m praying for your dad, or we love your family, we love the Bills,” Erin told News 4. “To see how, my name has gotten out there because of my dad’s suffering, I feel like God has given me this platform so that I can be an encouragement to others.”