Recently, I was watching the news and enjoying my morning cup of coffee when something caught my eye. It was one of those lines that runs across the bottom of the TV screen. You know the ones – they keep you sucked into the news as you wait for the actual story.
Curt Schilling, the former Red Sox pitcher who helped lead Boston to the 2004 World Series championship, announced that he was being treated for mouth cancer. Schilling also revealed that he believed the source of his cancer was the chewing tobacco that he used for 30 years, saying: “I do believe, without a doubt, unquestionably that chewing was what gave me cancer.”
But Curt Schilling isn’t the first Major League Baseball player to suffer from oral cancer.
In June, baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn died at age 54 as a result of salivary gland cancer. Like Schilling, he also attributed this to his use of chewing tobacco during his playing days.
In 1948, the legendary Babe Ruth passed away at 53. His heavy drinking and smoking affected his career. Just before retiring, he was diagnosed with nasopharyngeal carcinoma, cancer of the upper throat.
And then there’s centre-fielder Bill Tuttle. Tuttle’s baseball cards often pictured him with a cheek bulging from chewing tobacco. Thirty-eight years after his baseball career ended, Tuttle had a more ominous bulge in his cheek. It was a tumour so big that it came through his cheek and extended through his skin. Doctors were able to remove the tumour, but along with it came much of Tuttle’s face. Chewing tobacco as a young man cost Tuttle his jawbone, his right cheekbone, a lot of his teeth and gumline, and his tastebuds. In 1998, Bill Tuttle succumbed to the cancer that left him disfigured. He spent his last years trying to stop people from using smokeless tobacco.
While smokeless tobacco is usually associated with baseball, it’s also present in other sports. Hockey, football, and rugby are other sports where the use of smokeless tobacco is higher than you might think.
In the past, I’ve blogged about going smoke-free, but it is important to raise awareness about the dangers of all forms of tobacco use. Whether it’s smoked, sniffed, dipped, or chewed, tobacco can cost you the biggest game of all: your life.
So instead of chewing tobacco, how about chewing on the following quote from Curt Schilling for a while: “It was an addictive habit. I lost my sense of smell, my taste buds. I had gum issues, they bled … None of it was enough to ever make me quit. The pain that I was in going through this treatment … I wish I could go back and never have dipped. Not once. It was so painful.”
About Reg Wulff
Reg is a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator with Northern Health and has his BA in Health Science. Previously, he worked as a Recreation Therapist with Mental Health and Addictions Services in Terrace. Originally from Revelstoke, Reg enjoys the outdoor activities that Terrace offers, like mountain biking and fishing. Reg also likes playing hockey, working out and creative writing. He is married and has two sons and believes strongly in a work/life balance as family time is important to him.