Estabrooks has Parkinson's disease

Bill Estabrooks, a senior Nova Scotia cabinet minister, says he's fighting Parkinson's disease.

Bill Estabrooks, a senior Nova Scotia cabinet minister, says he has Parkinson's disease, a degenerative brain disorder.

Estabrooks told CBC News on Friday he was diagnosed nearly two years ago, but decided now is the time to let Nova Scotians know.

He said he didn't want to tell his Timberlea-Prospect constituents before last year's election because he didn't want any "sympathy votes."

There is no cure for the neurodegenerative disease, which can leave people incapacitated. Symptoms like hand tremors and rigid muscles are treated with medication or surgery.

Estabrooks, 62, said his diagnosis in November 2008 knocked him off stride.

"I was scared, I guess," he said. "But now that I look at some of the other challenges which I faced in the last number of months and years, it's manageable."

Estabrooks said living with Parkinson's is nothing compared to losing his wife suddenly last year, after she had an abdominal aneurysm. Other than slight tremors and a tendency to search for words, the disease is not having a big effect.

"It's made me smarter. You know, it's made me more aware of my health concerns. I have to have a better diet," he said.

"There will still be the opportunity to go to the Midtown and have a pop on occasion. But that's one of the things, with your diet and your sleeping. I've always liked to have a cold beer, but I can no longer be the so-called life of the party at 2 in the morning anymore.

"But that has nothing to do with Parkinson's, it just means I'm getting old," he added with a smile.

Estabrooks is minister of transportation and infrastructure renewal, and energy. He has represented Timberlea-Prospect since 1998, winning each election by an ever-greater margin.

He plans to carry on with his cabinet duties and hopes to run in the next provincial election.

Premier Darrell Dexter said he knew about the Parkinson's diagnosis before naming Estabrooks to cabinet.

"I have known Bill Estabrooks for a very long time and knew that he was a capable, competent guy and someone I wanted to have included in our executive council. And I saw no reason, given that his difficulties were manageable, that he should be excluded," said Dexter.

Dexter said it doesn't appear that Estabrooks's illness is having any effect on his performance.