BOSTON — Curt Schilling, the right-hander who helped the Boston Red Sox to the World Series title in 2004 and 2007, said Wednesday he’s been treated for mouth cancer and blames the disease on using chewing tobacco for about 30 years.
Schilling discussed details on WEEI-FM in Boston. He announced in February that he had cancer but not the type.
He has said he’s in remission after seven weeks of radiation and chemotherapy, and has lost 75 pounds.
“I’m not going to sit up here from the pedestal and preach about chewing,” he said. “It was an addictive habit. I can think about so many times in my life when it was so relaxing to just sit back and have a dip and do whatever.
“And I lost my sense of smell, my taste buds for the most part. I had gum issues, they bled, all this other stuff. None of it was enough to ever make me quit.”
According to WEEI, Schilling lost 75 pounds mainly because he couldn’t swallow.
Schilling revealed that it was mouth cancer two months after a Hall of Fame outfielder, Tony Gwynn, died at age 54 of oral cancer, a disease he also attributed to years of chewing tobacco.
The use of chewing tobacco has become “a norm in the baseball culture,” Red Sox Manager John Farrell said Wednesday night. “On the heels of the unfortunate passing of Tony Gwynn and now what Curt’s going through, you would think that this would be more of a current beacon for guys to take note and know that there’s a price to be paid if you’re one of the unfortunate ones that is stricken by cancer.”
Major League Baseball prohibits having smokeless tobacco in public view and imposes fines for violations.
Minor leaguers cannot use it in games.
Schilling announced in June that he is in remission.
“I didn’t talk about it for two reasons,” Schilling said. “No. 1, I didn’t want to get into the chewing tobacco debate, which I knew was going to come about, which to me, I’ll go to my grave believing that was why I got what I got … absolutely, no question in my mind about that.
“And the second thing was I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me. I didn’t want the pity or any of that stuff.”
Schilling also spoke on WEEI about his diagnosis and how he has approached it.
“You know what the amazing thing was, and I was just dumbfounded by it: You’ve just been told you have cancer, and you walk out into the public and the world’s still going on. It was really a challenge to wrap my head around that,” said Schilling.
Schilling was in the hospital for about six months, in part because he developed additional problems, including a staph infection.
“I got chemo and radiation for (seven) weeks, and I came back to the room and my family was sitting there and I thought, ‘You know what, this could be so much worse. This could be one of my kids,’ ” he said.
“I’m the one guy in this family that can handle this. From that perspective, I’ve never said ‘Why me?’ and I never will.”
He added he visited the doctor for another reason before getting his diagnosis.
“This all came about from a dog bite,” he told WEEI. “I got bitten by a dog and I had some damage to my finger and I went to see a doctor. And the day I went to see the doctor, I was driving and I went to rub my neck and I felt a lump on the left side of my neck. I knew immediately it wasn’t normal.
“There happened to be an (ear, nose and throat specialist) right next door to the hand doctor. I thought, ‘What the heck, let me just stop in and see.’ So I waited in the office, went in there and he did a biopsy. Two days later he diagnosed me with squamous cell carcinoma.”
Jon Lester, a former Red Sox left-hander, brought awareness to his struggles with cancer when he was coming back from treatment for anaplastic large cell lymphoma in 2007.
It was Farrell’s first year as Boston’s pitching coach and Lester – who was sent to Oakland at the trade deadline last month – was 4-0 that season and won the clinching game of Boston’s four-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies in the World Series.
“Any time a public figure who is, unfortunately, diagnosed with cancer, is able to come out and speak about it – I know how hard that can be – it brings awareness,” Lester said after Schilling’s disclosure, “and maybe sheds a little light or maybe a little hope on somebody who is struggling.”
Before his team faced the Red Sox on Wednesday night, Los Angeles Angels Manager Mike Scioscia noted that the use of smokeless tobacco “is non-existent in the minor leagues during a game. … You hope that the next generation will heed the mistakes of the prior generation.”
Schilling is a three-time World Series champion with the Arizona Diamondbacks, then the Red Sox.
He’s being sued by Rhode Island’s economic development agency after his video game company received a $75 million state loan guarantee and then collapsed.