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Carnett: Sharing our fight with Parkinson's makes us brothers

October 15, 2012|By Jim Carnett

My friend and I are more than pals.

We've become, well, brothers.

It's no different than what I experienced decades ago when I served in the U.S. military and had a number of Army "brothers." They were my closest buddies. I would have willingly given my life for them, and they — astonishingly — would have done the same for me.

That's not unusual. It's been that way with armies for centuries. Soldiers sharing foxholes fight not just for themselves but for the guys to their left and right.

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I've often wondered since my service days why I never again cultivated such depth in a friendship. I've discovered it's not something that casually occurs. It requires a pickle of sorts.

For me, at long last, it's finally happened again.

Foxhole situations, by their nature, shatter stereotypes and barriers, and place a premium on selflessness. As scripture extols: "Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."

Our culture assigns value to such relationships.

On the surface, my friend and I are different. He's scientific, efficient and systematic; I'm ad hoc and idiosyncratic. He's a Stanford University product; I'm Cal State Fullerton. He's organized; I'm ad lib.

But, like Kobe and LeBron, we enjoy assorted common traits.

Shared or special conditions can lead to connection and, ultimately, devotion. That's how it's worked for my friend and me.

We share the same malady: Parkinson's disease. In a sense, we've spent the past few years in a foxhole together. As a result, we know each other well.

Parkinson's is a degenerative brain disorder that causes nerve cells to die or become impaired. Patients exhibit a collection of symptoms such as tremors or shaking, slowness of movement, rigidity or stiffness, and balance difficulties. Other signs include a shuffling gate, cognitive problems or muffled speech.

The disease has no cure.

Parkinson's is progressive, and things get worse; never better. The best one can hope for is to reach a sort of homeostasis, or plateau, in which the progression of the disease is slowed. Parkinson's is never totally arrested, but its progression can, perhaps, be retarded apace.

Extended symptom stability, with little or no deterioration, is the ultimate objective. Rapid deterioration is an anathema.

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