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Curt Schilling: Awareness Saves Lives

Tony Gwynn [1] is not the first Major League baseball player to battle oral cancer. Babe Ruth, Brett Butler and Curt Flood also had the disease. Recently one more name was added to the list: Curt Schilling. In the wake of Gwynn’s death, the former Boston Red Sox pitching ace revealed that he, too, was treated for cancer in the lining of his mouth. And like Gwynn, Schilling says his smokeless tobacco habit is to blame.

“I do believe without a doubt and unquestionably that chewing is what gave me cancer,” he told Boston-area radio station WEII. “I’ll go to my grave believing that was why I got what I got.”

Schilling said he was so addicted to chewing tobacco that nothing short of cancer had persuaded him to stop using it.

“I lost my sense of smell, my taste buds for the most part, I had gum issues — they bled, all this other stuff,” Schilling said in the same interview. “None of it was enough to ever make me quit.”

The six-time All-Star said he was diagnosed with oral cancer [2] after finding a lump in his own throat, for which he sought medical attention five days later. He said his doctor told him that on average, people wait 10 months between the time they first notice something and the time they get it checked out — a very dangerous delay. “People need to be more self-aware,” Schilling said.