Schilling: Tobacco gave me cancer

He said the dog bite damaged his finger enough to send him to the doctor. On his way to see the physician, he felt a lump on the left side of his neck and decided to get it checked out with a nearby ear, nose and throat specialist.

"He did a biopsy and two days later he diagnosed me with squamous cell carcinoma," Schilling said.

It is the same type of cancer former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly is suffering from.

"Commonly this is known as mouth cancer ... cancer of the lining of the mouth," said Schilling's physician, Dr. Robert Haddad of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. "The lump in the neck is why most patients go to the doctor first because they feel the lump in the neck, that's the lymph node that's enlarged."

This was Schilling's second public appearance since the cancer diagnosis. In May, he appeared at Fenway Park as the Red Sox celebrated the 2004 World Series-winning team.

"It was weird," Schilling explained of the appearance. "I was in the hospital at the time. They wouldn't let me come over [to Fenway] and go back [to the hospital]. So I had to determine if I was OK and ready to be discharged. I said 'Yeah, yeah, OK.' And two days later I was back in the hospital. That's why [my son] Gehrig walked out with me, because I was afraid I was going to fall on the way in because I was so discombobulated."

He was asked Wednesday why he has stayed out of the spotlight in recent months, choosing only now to talk about it for the first time.

"I didn't want people feeling sorry for me," he said. "I didn't want the pity, I didn't want any of that stuff."

Schilling pitched in the majors for 20 seasons with the Baltimore Orioles, Houston Astros, Philadelphia Phillies, Arizona Diamondbacks and Red Sox. The six-time All-Star finished with a career record of 216-146 and a 3.46 ERA. His 3,116 strikeouts rank 15th all time. He won two World Series titles with the Red Sox and one with the Diamondbacks.

Red Sox manager John Farrell noted how the use of smokeless tobacco is not prohibited on the big-league level, protected by the players' collective bargaining agreement with Major League Baseball.

"MLB has taken steps to dissuade players from using it through educational programs that are administered to every team," Farrell said. "It's even got to the point [in the minor leagues] now where players can be fined if smokeless tobacco is in view of the general public. There have been some of those warnings and penalties levied on some of our players.

"I think we all recognize that it's addictive and causes cancer. That's proven. [But] at this time, it's upon the player to make the conscious decision for himself to use it or not. All we can do is continue educate guys what the ramifications are. ... On the heels of the unfortunate passing of Tony Gwynn and what Curt is going through, you would think this would be a current beacon for guys to take note that there's a price to be paid, if you're one of the unfortunate ones stricken by cancer."

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