I am going to take a break from my Fountain Hills History Lesson this week since I thought I might answer questions about my constant battle with Parkinson’s disease.

I seem to be getting a lot more emails lately from readers having questions about this disease and how I’ve dealt with it for almost 30 years.

The questions range from, “What symptoms did you have when you first thought you may have Parson’s?” Other frequent questions are about the types of medications I take and whether I would undergo the Deep Brain Stimulation surgery again.

I always recommend to those who have questions about this disease, should contact a doctor, preferably a neurologist that specializes in Parkinson’s. There are two excellent articles in the most recent AARP magazine about Parkinson’s and how former actor Michael J. Fox has dealt with the disease.

The disease affects about 1 million Americans, with 60,000 new cases each year.

“The causes of Parkinson’s are still a mystery,” says Dr. Michael Okun, national medical advisor for the Parkinson’s Foundation. “Essentially, the brain cells are dying. Over time, neurons in the brain that control movement and mood degenerate. That’s why both physical disability and depression are hallmarks of the disease.”

Early signs of Parkinson’s disease can include a decreased sense of smell, recurring constipation and sleep problems. About 70 percent develop tremors.

As for me, I first noticed changes in my body several years before that. I was playing first base in the Fountain Hills Men’s Softball League. The last game I played, I missed three throws from our shortstop. I didn’t just drop the ball, I never even got a glove on them. I wonder if this hesitation in reaching for the ball was my first indication of Parkinson’s. The next thing I noticed is that I suddenly began having extra “A’s” in my copy when I typed. Then there was the day I tripped going up the stairs to the restroom in our building. Tripping became more prevalent just walking across the carpeting both at home and in the office.

I made an appointment with Dr. Bill O’Brien at the local Health Center. After examining me, he was fairly certain that I was in the early stages of Parkinson’s. He recommended I see Scottsdale neurologist Gary Reese. O’Brien said he is very thorough and very knowledgeable about Parkinson’s. When I started seeing him, I found that those statements were very accurate about him. I continued to see him until I had my Deep Brain Stimulation surgery in 2011.

Dr. Charles Adler became my neurologist when I started going to the Mayo Clinic, which was one of two locations in the Valley performing the procedure. Another factor in switching to the Mayo Clinic was my wife, Diane, was employed there and we had our health insurance with them which would cover most of the cost.

I’ll talk about the DBS procedure in my next column.

As for the medications I have been on since I’ve had Parkinson’s, the first drug I tried was Sinemet, which I still take regularly to this day, but at a much lower dosage. Dr. Reese put me on Stalevo and Requip. After going on those two medications, I found I could walk again without using a cane, I began typing again, putting the voice recognition software back in the box. My voice, which had become quite soft, was getting stronger.

I continue to take Sinemet and Requip. But I haven’t taken Stalevo in years. Several years ago, I started having problems with low blood pressure (another condition of Parkinson’s). It was then that I started taking a medication called Midodrine. It has worked quite well.

As I said earlier, I will have more on the DBS procedure and what it did for me. In closing this week’s column, I want to wish everyone a most happy and healthy new year!