Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn had a malignant tumor in his right cheek, attributed at least in part to the long-term use of smokeless tobacco during his playing career (though at least one of Gwynn’s former doctors claims there is no such link).
On Wednesday, following 14 hours of surgery, Gwynn was awake and drinking water and laughing, according to ESPN.com:
According to Gwynn’s wife, Alicia, the doctors performed a complex nerve-graft procedure, removing Gwynn’s facial nerve and replacing it with a nerve from Gwynn’s shoulder.
“All is well — it doesn’t seem like last time,” Alicia Gwynn said from the Thornton Hospital at the University of California San Diego. “It turned out great. He looks good, he looks normal. His eyelids are a little swollen, but they got all the cancer. They say they got it all. His face looks good. They did an amazing job.”
The surgery was intricate and not without high risk. If the nerve graft did not go well, Alicia Gwynn said, her husband’s face could have been partially paralyzed or slightly disfigured.
This is very good news for the former Padres star, who is now the baseball coach at San Diego State University. According to the article, Alicia Gwynn believes that her husband can go back to work there in about a month.
This story is a good cautionary tale about the dangers of smokeless tobacco:
Tony Gwynn said he used smokeless tobacco inside his right cheek during his entire 20-year career with the San Diego Padres, and for another decade following that.
“I’m addicted,” he previously has said of his habit.