Senator discloses he's battling Parkinson's disease

Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., speaks during a news conference to announce his re-election bid for the 2016 campaign at the state Capitol, Monday, Nov. 17, 2014, in Atlanta.

AP

Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, disclosed on Wednesday that he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2013. However, the 70-year-old senator said the disease has not slowed him down in the Senate, nor will it stop him from seeking a third term in 2016.

"Over 1 million Americans have Parkinson's and I am one of them," Isakson said in a statement. In spite of his illness, Isakson is serving on five Senate committees and is the only Republican serving as chairman of two committees -- the Veterans' Affairs Committee and the Ethics Committee.

"I am busier and have more responsibility today than ever before in my political career, and I couldn't be happier about that," he said. "I remain devoted to public service, to my state and to my constituents. I am eager to take my record of results to the voters of Georgia as I run for re-election in 2016."

The senator said he first saw a neurologist in 2012 after experiencing stiffness in his left arm. He's now also suffering a slowed, shuffling gait, but he is in the early stages of the disease. The senator said he has undergone rigorous physical therapy and continues to take medication and practice regular exercises to treat his condition.

Isakson said he only recently shared his diagnosis with his three grown children and his senior staff, who along with his wife Dianne helped him decide to publicly disclose his illness.

"In the end, I decided I should handle my personal health challenge with the same transparency that I have championed throughout my career," he said.

Isakson's treating neurologist, Thomas Holmes, issued a statement confirming that the senator "has continued to maintain his rigorous Senate schedule without difficulty since 2012."

"I believe he is fully capable of continuing to perform his duties as a U.S. Senator, and I believe he is fully capable of running for re-election and serving for another term," Holmes said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said in a statement that "no one works harder" than Isakson. "This diagnosis will not slow him down one bit," he added.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, called Isakson "tough" and commended him for representing the people of Georgia "with distinction and honor."