By Stephanie Stahl

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Ed Rendell announced Monday morning that he is battling Parkinson’s disease.

During a press conference at Pennsylvania Hospital, the former Philadelphia mayor and Pennsylvania governor said he was diagnosed with the disease over three years ago and has been undergoing treatment.

Rendell, 74,  said he initially went to the doctor after his hands started to shake and having trouble with his balance. He said he was “stunned” when he was diagnosed.

“I never missed a day of work and all of a sudden I had a disease,” said Rendell, adding that his mother also suffered from Parkinson’s.

 

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Rendell says he wanted to make his diagnosis public in an effort for others to get checked out if they are suffering from the same symptoms.

“It’s not a death sentence,” he said. “It doesn’t have to affect your quality of life.”

“I didn’t want to admit I was afflicted with a disease,” Rendell added when asked why he waited on the announcement.

Parkinson’s involves a loss of brain cells controlling movement. It can also cause cognitive changes, slowed speech and depression. It’s progressive and there is no cure. ( CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE)

“Every patient is affected differently,” said Dr. Matthew Sterm, who works in Penn Medicine’s Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center.

He says Rendell’s early stage Parkinson’s is being treated with standard medications to replace a deficiency of the brain chemical dopamine.

“The [governor] is an inspiring example of what Parkinson’s can look like today, he is active,” added Sterm.

Physical therapy is also a critical treatment for Parkinson’s. Rendell has a regular work out schedule and says boxing is especially helpful.

“It hits a lot of points on something we call neuroplasticity which means we’re driving brain change,” said Heather Cianci, a physical therapist who helps Parkinson’s patients at Penn Medicine.

Following the announcement, Mayor Jim Kenney and Governor Tom Wolf issued statements.

“I am sorry to learn that former Governor Ed Rendell is battling Parkinson’s disease. I am confident however that he will triumph against it with the great determination and resolve that he has demonstrated his entire life in public service. I commend him for using his voice to create much-needed awareness about the importance of early detection in treating this complex disease,” said Kenney.

“Frances and I are sending our thoughts and encouragement to our friend Ed Rendell today. Pennsylvania has seen few leaders as tough as Ed and we have full confidence that neither has Parkinson’s disease. Ed should know that the entire commonwealth is standing behind him and hoping for the continued success of his treatment and therapy. As he always has, he is putting others first by going public with his diagnosis so others can also get the help they need. We are proud of everything Gov. Rendell did and does every day for Pennsylvania and Philadelphia. We look forward to continuing to work with him to build stronger and safer communities for a long time to come,” said Wolf.

Rendell says his trouble walking is related to bad knees, not the Parkinson’s. While there’s a genetic component, the cause is unknown. Doctors say Parkinson’s is most common in older men.

Rendell served as mayor from 1992-2000 and then as governor from 2003-2011.

Parkinson’s is a disorder that affects the central nervous system.

CLICK HERE to learn more about Parkinson’s disease research.