"Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth," said Lou Gehrig on July 4, 1939.

After 17 seasons with the New York Yankees, the famous first baseman announced he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

ALS is a progressive neuro-degenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.

"I might have been given a bad break," said Gehrig. "But I have an awful lot to live for."

Seventy-four years later, ALS patients continue to draw inspiration from Gehrig.

"If a person receives a diagnosis of ALS, particularly in the Lehigh Valley, he or she should understand there are remarkable resources available that will help," said Richard Smolev, who has been receiving treatment at Lehigh Valley Health Network's multidisciplinary clinic.

Smolev, of Kintnersville, Bucks Co., was diagnosed in 2011. He said he always dreamed when his career as an attorney wrapped up, he would become a writer.

"Even though my world is shrinking, my voice is failing, the ability to put on those hand splints to write is truly a dream come true," said Smolev.

Smolev has published two books, "Offerings" in 2012, and "In Praise of Angels," due out July 31.

Smolev said he has drawn strength from his wife, Nancy, his family and his friends.  He said the ALS Association also offers a lot of support for those diagnosed with the disease.

Although it's been hard, Smoley said ALS has brought out the best in him and those around him.

"I truly understand what Gehrig meant when he said he was the luckiest man on the planet, despite the bad break," said Smolev.