George M. Andes
Andes GM. Mark Twain's Cat. Ann Intern Med. 1998;128:1043-1044. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-128-12_Part_1-199806150-00019
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Published: Ann Intern Med. 1998;128(12_Part_1):1043-1044.
Mark Twain has been credited with the following bit of wisdom: “The boy who carries a cat around by its tail learns a lesson that can be taught in no other way.”
Fourteen years ago, I discovered I was holding a cat by its tail. My cat was a great-grandchild of the breed first identified in 1817 by James Parkinson. In the beginning, my cat was a small kitten-a bad-tempered kitten, to be sure, but still just a kitten.
Those of us with a chronic, progressive illness are scarce enough to be objects of mild curiosity but also common enough that everyone knows, or at least knows of, one or more of us. The present bittersweet stage of modern medical science (it is able to prolong life without necessarily restoring health) ensures that, as time passes, more and more people will become like us. I can speak directly only about Parkinson disease, but I suspect that the human condition is sufficiently general that the experiences of those who have diabetes or muscular dystrophy or rheumatoid arthritis or any other chronic ailment will not be greatly misrepresented by my particular experience.
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