Smokeless Tobacco and My Cancer


As best I can remember, I dipped the same brand of tobacco for about 30 years. In seventh grade I started hanging out with a few cowboy types. My father chews tobacco and did back then. But chew never interested me much. A few of my friends dipped, thus I dipped too. The warning labels on the cans of smokeless didn't appear until 1986, and I remember I didn't need to be a certain age to buy it. I even won a trip to the Daytona 500 in 1991 from the makers of my dip.


So I dipped. I learned how to hide it from teachers and bosses. I could dip all day and no one ever knew I had one in my mouth. If I was hunting, I dipped. If I was fishing, I dipped. I was never hooked on it of course. RIGHT! I was hooked big time. Though I had quit a few times I never gave it up. If you ever dipped, gave it up, then started again, you most likely know the high you get from it. It is addictive. It is a drug.


Then I noticed a spot on the inside of my cheek. Was I worried? I guess in a way I wondered about it, but I knew it wasn't cancer. I couldn't get cancer. I finally went to an oral surgeon in September 2005. When I got the phone call, the news wasn't good. Squamous Cell Carcinoma. As it was explained to me, this was basically a skin cancer. What made it bad though is it had gone unchecked inside my mouth since it was out of sight. Thus it became what the doctors called moderately invasive.


I set up an appointment with M.D.Anderson Cancer Center. If I was gonna get cancer work done, I was going to the best. After running CT scans other tests, my doctor came to same the conclusion. Very little time was wasted and my operation was set up for December 8th. I was told of the difficulties involved. The loss of feeling. How it would take time to talk right again. That eating would be a problem. Dr. Holsinger let me know from square one he wouldn't know how much had to be taken til he got in and tested the area. I ended up losing 3 teeth, alot of gum and the inside lining of my cheek. Also I had 37 lymphnodes removed, my jawbone was shaven to half of it's thickness and a plate was added with screws to strengthen my jaw. Leg tissue was removed and used to replace what was removed. The following are just a few of the pictures from my surgery. One picture even shows the complete area removed from my jaw.

Effects of Smokeless Tobacco - photos

 slice  slice2  cheek folded up during surgery for removal of squamous cell cancer
 side view after oral cancer from dipping was removed  leg skin that replaced removed cancerous skin from cheek  leg2
 icu  icu2  breathing
 section containing sqamous cell carcinoma  after oral cancer surgery picture  rehab

More leg was put in than needed because swelling cannot be determined and now I wait til they are sure all swelling is gone. I was given the option to go have the extra removed but opted to not have it done.

They had also put a feeding tube in my nose. However, once I started waking up in ICU, I ended up throwing the tube up. And since a feeding tube in my side was impractical as it would have to stay in for 5 to 6 weeks, I did without. Quickest 30 pounds I ever lost. Too bad it didn't stay off. I still have problems with my neck and tightness and probably always will.


"Trash Your Can "

So where do I go now? I would love to drive up to a hunting expo in a big 4 wheel drive camoed truck to grab the attention of people. Or go to a fishing tournament in a matching truck/boat design, not to win, but to talk about smokeless tobacco. Maybe show up at the races and counter the tobacco companies that give away their product at these events. And yes, they still do it. And to be able to show up at rodeos and speak about oral cancer and dipping, wow. Yep, I would love to do these things, but I am a realist.

My plan is to go into schools. But also tap into areas I have never seen this before. Hunting Expos, Fishing shows or even tournaments,and even racing events. I have attended all these events before, and at each you numerous dippers. Usually there is even booths from the smokeless tobacco companies themselves at these shows giving out free samples. I know, because I would flock to these booths to get mine. A program like this has never been done at the events that bring in the most "dippers". Maybe someday, I can make this my reality.

Now they even use sex to sell the product. Whether it's a poster of a beautiful woman touting smokeless or having several "sexy" women at their booths at the above mentioned events to draw guys in. I am old enough to see this kind of advertisement for what it is. But teens and young adults can and will be influenced by it. I am not looking for a confrontation with the booths, but I am wanting to let people know the things that can happen from using smokeless.

My reason for adding this page is I don't want this to be just a small local program. I want to carry my message to anyone willing to listen. Please contact me if you are interested in me speaking at your event, school, show etc. And if you, someone you know, or your company would like to sponsor me on this quest, I would be glad to hear from you.

Can You Quit Smokeless Tobacco?

As for ways to quit. Mine was drastic and I hope no one will have to do it that way. One study done and posted on NIDA (the National Institute on Drug Abuse) speaks of using the patch. I had never really thought of this as I always associated the patch with smokers. But the drug is nicotine, no matter the source.

Learn as much as you can about not just the cancer but the battle during and after treatment. There is no shortage of books dealing with these topics. Books such as Meeting the Challenges of Oral and Head and Neck Cancerhelp you understand what is in store should you or someone close to you have cancer. U.S. Dept. of Health puts out an inexpensive booklet with information on symptoms, treatments and so forth reguarding oral cancer. Simply put, educate yourself and move forward with confidence.

So what about the oral fixation? What do you do to cope with the "craves"? There are a multitute of ways to get around that. The first of course is mentally. But that doesn't always work the best for some of us. So then we look for substitutes. The first time I quit, I substituted plain old gum for it along with developing a love for tooth picks. The tooth picks satisfied the oral fixation that dippers have. And took a little sting out of the nicotine withdrawal. No matter what product you chose, be sure to do your homework on it. Consult a doctor if you have doubts. Talk with people who have used the products. Read reviews. Educate yourself on all your choices.

I have been asked also about "non-tobacco" alternatives. Unfortunately I didn't find these before getting cancer. But you still have a chance. There are several on the market and each come in different flavors much like smokeless tobacco. One that I have tried is Bacc Off. Bacc Off is the premier smokeless tobacco alternative. No tobacco, no nicotine, no regrets. Quit dip, stop smoking, and stop chewing tobacco, with Bacc Off non-tobacco chew. Straight, Mint, Wintergreen, or pouches. Yes, I have used it. Even after my operation.

Non tobacco chew

Another non-tobacco substitute is Jake's Mint. It's a newer product but growing rapidly. You can find a sampler pack like this one ...Jake's Mint Chew - 6 Can Sampler Pack (Cinnamon + Wintergreen). There is also Smokey Mountain Snuff - 6 Can Sampler Pack (Wintergreen + Arctic Mint). Both of the above are the sample packs with a variety of flavors but each can be bought in your favorite flavor.

What if you don't want to use anything that resembles tobacco to help in your quit but still need that little something? You can always try jerky! I love jerky, perhaps too much sometimes. One of my favorites I will drive 180 mile round trip for. And easier solution is another favorite. Earlier this year I was introduced to Lucky Beef jerky out of Nebraska. I won a Lucky Brand Jerky Patriot Jerky Ammo Can on a social site and was soon hooked on it. Just like with the non-tobacco substitutes listed above, Lucky jerky comes in many flavors and configurations. So try some and find what works best for you.


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