For the first time since he was diagnosed with cancer, former Major League Baseball pitcher Curt Schilling is opening up about the specifics of the disease, what he believes caused it and his treatment.
Speaking to WEEI Radio in Boston for the Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon, Schilling announced (via ESPNBoston.com) that he was dealing with a type of mouth cancer known as squamous cell carcinoma—the same kind of cancer that former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly is currently being treated for.
Schilling discussed his use of smokeless chewing tobacco for 30 years and how he believes it was the instigator of the disease:
"I do believe, without a doubt, unquestionably that chewing (tobacco) was what gave me cancer," said Schilling. "I'm not going to sit up here from the pedestal and preach about chewing."
Schilling did go through chemotherapy and radiation treatment, which he says caused him to lose 75 pounds due to the pain of swallowing. He also mentions at one point he developed a staph infection, causing him to lose one week of his memory.
His wife, Shonda, tweeted a picture in April after the former All-Star finished his final chemo treatment:
Chemo officially done. 3 radiations left!! pic.twitter.com/5TbxPzfQD6— Shonda Schilling (@ShondaSchilling) April 8, 2014
The three-time World Series champion said that the first few days of treatment were nearly unbearable:
The first day I went in, they clamped [the mask] down, they do the radiation into the tumors. The second day they did it. And about the third day I started developing almost a phobia and I literally had to be medicated for the seven weeks to go and do that. I couldn't control myself under the mask.
Schilling noted his diagnosis "all came about from a dog bite." He was on his way to the doctor to get the bite treated and decided to get his neck checked out after feeling a lump.
Even though Schilling says the cancer is in remission, the 47-year-old continues to face an uphill battle: "There are so many things that are damaged during the process. I don't have any salivary glands, I can't taste anything and I can't smell anything right now. And there's no guarantee they'll come back."
Hearing Schilling comment on the topic of chewing tobacco figures to sound some alarms for Major League Baseball. Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn died in June as the result of a long battle with salivary gland cancer, which he attributed to his use of chewing tobacco.
MLB has tried to outlaw players' use of chewing tobacco. The Players' union said, via Sam Galanis of NESN.com, after Gwynn's death it would look into banning the substance in the next labor negotiations.
Considering how Schilling is now speaking out against it, as well as the outcry after Gwynn's death, there figures to be a lot of pressure on the union to do something about the issue.