Photo Gallery

As disturbing as these photos are, I want to give you an idea of what you might look like after undergoing the extensive surgery that is needed to remove cancer caused by chewing tobacco.

Bill Tuttle

Bill never had a problem until the fall of 1993, when he developed a sore in his mouth. His doctor took a biopsy and it came back positive.

I always chewed on the left side of my mouth, Tuttle said. I asked the doc how I got cancer on my right side. He told me the saliva swishes the nicotine around.

Surgeons at the University of Minnesota Medical Center, near Tuttle’s hometown of Anoka, Minn., told him the operation probably would take 2 hours to cut out “a little piece” of his mouth.
“That little piece turned into the biggest tumor the doctor said he ever took out of someone’s mouth,”Tuttle said.

The reconstructive surgery, on Nov. 11, 1993, lasted 13 hours. Skin from his neck was used to replace his cheek, which was riddled with cancer. Then, two slabs of skin were transplanted from his chest up to his neck. Arm nerves had to be severed, and today Tuttle can’t raise his right arm straight up or open a bottle of ketchup.

That operation was just a warmup. Six weeks later, the cancer returned. In an operation a year later, surgeons rotated part of his skull 180 degrees, creating an ersatz cheekbone. Then they transplanted muscles from his leg to hold the thing up like a rubber band.
Tuttle was so disfigured, some of his seven grandchildren didn’t want to go into his room to look at him.

Last year, they found more cancer in the back of Tuttle’s mouth. More radiation. More chemotherapy. For four months, he couldn’t swallow. A tube-like siphon had to be inserted into his nose. “I’d try to drink water,” he explained, “and it all ran back out my nose. And I had to sleep in a chair because I couldn’t breathe if I laid down flat.”

One night he tried it anyway. An hour later, he awoke gasping for breath. He pounded on a wall, to awaken his wife who was sleeping in another room. They called 911 and help came – with not a minute to spare.

All this pain and suffering because of a big wad of tobacco in his cheek.

Rick Bender

This is Rick Bender, and some call him the man without a face. Rick was born in San Diego, California in April of 1962. I now live in Kentucky. At the age of 12 he started using Spit Tobacco, commonly known as Chewing Tobacco. there were several things that influenced him in its use, probably the biggest was the game of baseball.

At the age of 26 (March of 1989) he was diagnosed with cancer because of his use of Spit Tobacco. In April of 1989 he underwent my first of 4 major surgeries to remove the cancer. He lost 1/3 of his tongue, 1/2 of his jaw, 25% use of his right arm, as well as almost his life. Rick am still fighting the affect of  tobacco use today.

Since his last operation in June of 1990, Rick have devoted himself to educating others about this Tobacco product that is widely thought of as a safe alternative to smoking. Rick has worked with the Office of the Surgeon general of the United States, Major League Baseball and many other organizations across this great country of ours. His efforts have included testifying at a Congressional Sub-Committee hearing on the subject as well as his own prevention/cessation lectures to people of all ages (mainly school age young people) across America.

This has become Rick’s  life’s work. He shouldn’t be here. After seeing how big the cancer was, doctors did not expect Rick to see his 30th birthday. But he is still here, and have a second chance at life. He believes that he is here to educate people about the dangers of Tobacco. If he can get just one individual each day to quit using, or never start using Tobacco, maybe it will save their life.

Gruen von Behrens

• Started using spit tobacco at age 13
• Was diagnosed with oral cancer at age 17
• Has been through 35 painful surgeries
• Parts of his neck and tongue were removed
Watch him tell his story.

He was 13 when he tried spit tobacco (dip) on a camping trip with friends. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a one-time deal. Gruen ended up with a powerful addiction that changed his life forever. Just four years later, at the age of 17, he was diagnosed with oral cancer. To fight it, he’s been forced to endure 35 painful surgeries, including one radical surgery that removed half of his neck muscles and much of his tongue.

If I had known then what I know now, I never would have put a dip in my mouth. Spit tobacco seemed harmless, but it has ruined my life.

Now 27, Gruen travels the country to show the world the reality of spit tobacco. Watch him tell his story here.