Former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling is set to return to ESPN on Thursday night after several months away to focus on his battle with cancer. Schilling, who was diagnosed with mouth cancer and believes it was caused by years of tobacco use, said he lost nearly 80 pounds in less than a year.
“Mentally, physically, (it was) the most difficult eight months of my life,” he told ESPN’s Karl Ravech. “Certainly the most painful.”
Schilling, 47, has been in remission since June. He said he was in pain 24 hours a day for four months. While he relied on love and support from his family to get him through treatments, he said there were moments during that period where he understood suicidal thoughts.
“There are some times during this treatment where I thought if I got it again I’m not sure I’d do the treatment again,” Schilling said. “I have to look at pictures of my kids and my wife to push me over the edge, because the amount of pain I was in for the length of time that I was doing this — there were times when you realize people take their own lives when they don’t have families.”
Millions of people across the world get cancer each year because they are just plain unlucky. Unlike those people, Schilling acknowledges that his oral cancer was caused by years of smokeless tobacco use and stubbornness.
“The challenging part is, much like the company I ran, this is my fault,” he said. “I chewed tobacco for thirty-something years. I was warned and warned year after year, and I didn’t pay attention.”
Players like Stephen Strasburg vowed to quit chewing tobacco after seeing how it destroyed the life of someone like Tony Gwynn at such a young age. Schilling was more fortunate than Gwynn, and hopefully his struggle inspires more ballplayers to lay off the dip. It certainly doesn’t seem worth it.