One Man’s Determination to Believe in the Biology of Hope
I was a left-hand hitter in baseball. I earned a varsity letter at a small prep school on the west end of Richmond, Va. It was a boarding school in the countryside so, without much opportunity to get in trouble, we did batting practice every day after school. I was mostly average, and one summer at 11 not good at all, but that spring season in the countryside when I was 14, I hit .360 and batted second. It was because of practice every day.
I always thought I had something in common with Lou Gehrig.
This Geezer Jock, me, was diagnosed with ALS this week, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. I’m 66. I wasn’t ready for it. Nobody’s ready for it. Doc says I am “early” but no one knows for sure.
I believe in the shared community of tragedy and joy and courage.
Now I need you to share your courage because I am determined not to let this disease intimidate me.
Nobody has won against ALS. Some stay alive longer than others. I need to believe stronger in what the medical scientist Norman Cousins termed “the biology of hope.”
Maybe this was God’s plan all along. Set me on a path toward Geezer Jock and rally a community of strong- willed, never quit people and show others what courage and hope look like. Together.
I am also determined to get everything out of the medical community it has to offer. One medicine, thanks to Mark Cuban of the Dallas Mavericks, is affordable, if they stock it. The other two drugs, my doctor insists, are not affordable and hard to get. Perhaps we go on a crusade together to push these companies, who also need to make money, to continue valuable research.
I need to get accustomed to living with this disease and stay active and eat high-calorie food. It’s harder than I realized.
It’s the mental side that is hardest, the pitcher throwing 100 mph with a nasty, break-your-toe slider. I need to fight back against this sense of doom. Gratitude and hope need to take the space occupied by doom.
A couple more things, please.
My wife, Jessie, and two sons, Raymond and Alexander, are warriors like me.
A new friend whose dad, also named Ray, had ALS. She addresses me as “Warrior Ray.” I like that. I need that.
Finally, I get ashamed when I say, “Why me?” This is a rare disease.
Well, why not me?
Teenage boys died on the beaches of Normandy.
Six million Jews were murdered in Europe.
Children are gunned down in classrooms.
Innocent Ukrainians die every day at the hands of a mad man.
My beloved brother, Tom, was taken at 51 and left behind two young sons and a loving wife.
A friend at church, a mom with two young kids and loving husband, was gone at 47.
Children die at sea escaping warlords. Children die of cancer.
Man has brutalized man over skin color in ways more gruesome than my diagnosis.
ALS is rare, Jessie said, but when you add up all the rare diseases in the world, and all the senseless killings, which is a disease itself, ALS is not so rare on the trauma scale.
So I need to say, “Why not me?”
Get behind me, Geezer Jocks. I need your courage.
I’m one of 11 children. Mom and dad made 13. Nonetheless, I have felt lucky and blessed. I aspire to be like Lou Gehrig (in more than a sweet left- handed swing). He said this:
“I might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for. Thank you.”
Ray Glier has written for various media for over 40 years, as a contributor to national publications including The New York Times, Vice Sports, USA TODAY, The Miami Herald, The Boston Globe, Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The Washington Post. The author of five books, Glier has a passion for master sports and senior athletes and shares their stories of triumph and joy in his unique, inspiring, and always moving weekly newsletter, Geezer Jock. Subscribe to Ray’s great content and support his fight at geezerjocknews.com.
This article is featured in the Summer 2023 issue of The Growing Bolder Digital Digest.