Friday, June 1, 2012

a true Hall of Famer

A friend posted on Facebook the "30 most iconic sports photos of all time." Somewhere in there was Lou Gehrig crying as he spoke to fans at Yankee Stadium during his retirement ceremony. Underneath the photo they printed the text of his speech.

The only part you ever hear -- at least the only one I've ever heard -- is how he considers himself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. But it turns out there's a good deal more. The last line blew me away, and I wanted to share it with you in the context of the opening, too.

Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. ... I close in saying that I might have been given a bad break, but I've got an awful lot to live for. Thank you.



Lou Gehrig had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. It later came to bear his name. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, rapidly progressive muscle weakness, muscle atrophy and spasticity, and difficulty speaking. Eventually you can't walk, get out of bed on your own, or use your hands and arms. It's not a fabulous way to die, which you can expect to do three to five years after it begins.

If *you'd* been given a terminal diagnosis, could you be grateful for it? Be honest. I will: If a doctor tells me "you have this weird, rare disease we don't know WTF to do with and you're going to die, sorry," I am going to be the most depressed, pissed-off person on the planet.

Here's the thing: I have a weird, rare disease -- a genetic mutation which causes me to clot overmuch. It can in fact kill me via heart attack and stroke, as both those events are caused by blood clots.

In 2005, I damn near died from complete bone marrow failure, known as aplastic anemia -- also weird and rare, and which can yet return.

I promise you I will be furious if any medical type writes me off. They do that with my mental health all the time, but *that* I'm in control of, personally -- if I die from being desperately bipolar, it's going to be be at MY hands, on MY timetable, and fuck the doctors.

Wow. Kudos to Mr. Gehrig. Maybe he was the first positive psychologist. :-)

PS: A bit of trivia: Lou Gehrig was diagnosed with ALS on June 19, 1939 -- his 36th birthday -- at the Mayo Clinic by Dr. Charles W. Mayo (son of one of the original founders).

1 comment:

Elvira Aletta said...

I love this. Having to deal with two chronic illnesses myself (I don't count depression and anxiety on the list but that's my own denial, haha!), I get what you are talking about. My mother could have been Lou Gerhig's sister. She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and was basically told to go home and die. Instead she rallied the troops, got good palliative care and lived well for another year. Only once did I hear her complain. ONLY ONCE! Thank you for this!