Brian Kelly’s Wife Paqui Kelly Beat Cancer Twice

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 24: Founders of The Kelly Cares Foundation, Brian Kelly and Paqui Kelly attend the 2017 Kelly Cares Foundation Irish Eyes Gala at The Pierre Hotel on April 24, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Gary Gershoff/WireImage)

Everybody has a price. Even celebrated college football coach Brian Kelly. About a week before his move from Notre Dame, Brian almost unequivocally refused that he would leave Notre Dame on his own accord. I use ‘almost’ because Brian’s answer came with a caveat: If the check were large enough, he would consider leaving. 

Kelly set the price at $250 million, saying: “Unless the fairy godmother comes by with that $250 million check, my wife would want to look at that first. I’d have to run it by her.” 

Brian’s wife, Paqui Kelly, appears satisfied with the offer tabled by LSU, which will reportedly earn Brian north of $100 million in ten years. Let’s take a closer look at Paqui Kelly. 

Brian Kelly’s wife, Paqui Kelly, has survived breast cancer twice. 

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Paqui (real name: Francisca Barbara Craig) has Spanish roots from her mother, who hails from Madrid. The name Paqui is short for her given name Francisca. 

When Paqui hit 37, she had a perfect life: three healthy children, a stable marriage, and a healthy body. Paqui described herself as the healthiest of her six sisters: She exercised regularly and never drank or smoked. 

She didn’t expect her doctor to find cancer during a routine checkup in 2002. She was physically fit, and as far as she knew, her family had no history of the disease.

However, doctors discovered two cysts in her breasts. They asked her to self-examine the cysts and report back in six-month intervals. Six months later, Paqui reported lump growth, and the doctor recommended immediate treatment. 

“A lumpectomy followed by radiation and chemotherapy increased the odds to 96%,” Paqui said. Physicians believed the cysts to be non-cancerous, as Paqui believed her family had no history of cancer. However, the doctors were wrong. 

An examination of the cysts found them to be cancerous. After getting the results, Paqui told Brian: “You know how you are always saying I’m one in a million? Well, remember what the doctors said? I’m the one.”

At the start of treatment, doctors gave Paqui’s cancer a 5% chance of recurrence. However, upon finding out that her family had a previously undiscovered history of cancer, the probability of recurrence rose to 95%. 

A cancer diagnosis on her sister, Monie, confirmed that the disease ran in the family. Several months before the five-year mark, Paqui’s cancer returned. This time, she opted for a double mastectomy on top of treatment. 

By then, Monie had already gone through the procedure. Paqui’s oldest sister, Eli, also underwent a double mastectomy as a preventive measure. “How awesome was it for us to be able to have each other?” Monie said

Brian praised Paqui for her positive attitude throughout the ordeal. “Even while she was battling through it, she was interacting with the kids and making fun of not having hair. She didn’t have to be in the room alone feeling sorry for herself.”

Paqui started the Kelly Cares Foundation to assist in the fight against cancer. 

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Paqui’s battle against cancer inspired her to start the Kelly Cares Foundation. The message she spreads is that people need to be proactive in health:

“For me, personally, my hope is to tell a story to hopefully help people. The message is to be proactive in your health. If I had waited until I was 40 to get my mammogram, I don’t know if I’d be sitting here.”

Kelly opines that the foundation has exceeded its expectations. “As of January 2019, we have contributed over $5 million to causes aligned with our vision and mission of support for organizations focused on health, education and community needs,” Kelly writes on the foundation’s website. 

The people of Notre Dame have supported the foundation through the years, and hopefully, the people of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, will do the same.

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