“Once you choose hope, anything is possible.” –Christopher Reeve
Much can be learned from the game of baseball, where important lessons abound that carry practical applications outside the lines. Throughout the game’s history, generations have borne witness to David and Goliath confrontations, Cinderella stories that have captured our hearts, and countless other tales in which character-building lessons can be discovered. One of my favorite lessons is from the story depicted in the movie 61*.
61* is a 2001 sports film directed by Billy Crystal and starring Barry Pepper and Thomas Jane. The film chronicles the attempt during the 1961 season by Yankees teammates Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle to surpass Babe Ruth’s single-season record of sixty home runs, which a generation of baseball fans had declared unbreakable. Overwhelmingly, in this quest Yankees fans supported the more popular and more talented Mantle; they felt that Maris was unworthy of one of the most coveted and sought-after records in baseball. The friendship formed between the teammates in spite of the pressure makes for a good story.
For me, the film is a great reminder of what baseball promises every spring: hope. Each season offers a new beginning wherein everyone has the chance to put up a MVP season. For individual players and teams, many prizes are up for grabs: the best team, most hits, most home runs, lowest ERA. Roger Maris’s 1961 season is a lesson in hope: during the very last game of a difficult season, he hit home run number sixty-one and broke Ruth’s record.
Hope is empowering. Hope breathes life into our greatest aspirations and captures our imaginations for what can be. Hope encourages us to keep striving for that which is beyond our reach but which, hopefully, we will discover is within our grasp.
My family and I embrace hope in all its forms, but in particular we hope for a cure. In 2011, my son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D). No parent ever wants to learn their child has a chronic, life-threatening illness. Knocked down, our family soon got up to begin the daily grind of our new reality. While I’ll never presume to understand what it means to personally suffer with T1D, I do understand what it means to be the parent of a type 1 diabetic, which is to say I know what it means to live with hope on board.
Some days it feels like we’re winning and some days it feels like we’re losing. When we grow weary and the season feels long, when the foundation of our commitments begins to erode, hope is the muscle that we flex. Hope is what we summon when the gap between where we are and our most heartfelt aspiration – a cure – seems wide.
I choose to focus on the milestones that bring us nearer to closing the gap and realizing our shared vision for a world without T1D. Harvard University researcher Doug Melton, Ph.D., Boston University researcher Edward Damiano, Ph.D. and his Bionic Pancreas Team, and JDRF’s encapsulation research program, come to mind for the promising advances each is making on the road to a cure. To be sure, many more examples exist.
It has been said that when we walk with hope in our hearts, we will never walk alone. In the T1D community we mustn’t forget that we are part of a passionate team: PWD, parents of CWD, caregivers, endocrinologists, academic researchers, non-profits (JDRF, ADA, DRIF, and many others), donors, the diabetes online community, and an army of volunteers with a shared passion for discovering better treatments and, eventually, a cure.
It matters not whether you choose to walk for a cure, ride for a cure, or donate time or money. It matters not whether you participate in a clinical trial, are part of a research team, or in what form your advocacy takes shape; you can be part of the team. And like any winning team, and like Roger Maris in 1961, together we will discover that hope will triumph, and in all of us there’s a season that can be epic.