Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Carole James has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and will not seek re-election next year.
The long-time politician says she is hoping to complete her political term and will not run again in the next provincial election.
“I went to my family doctor at the end of August and I mentioned at the end of my session I had some symptoms. I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease,” James said Thursday.
“There isn’t a cure and there is no way to stop the progression. Right now I have a hand tremor which is manageable. There is no need now to start on medication.”
James will continue to serve as Finance minister and Deputy Premier.
She says last summer she noticed she developed a slight hand tremor and had a few moments when I had trouble with my balance.
“I attributed it to fatigue. But when I mentioned the issues to my family doctor during a routine checkup, she ordered a referral to a neurologist,” James said.
“I saw the neurologist at the end of January of this year, went through a series of tests, and the diagnosis came back as Parkinson’s disease.”
James says she wanted to take time to learn about Parkinson’s and talk the diagnosis over with her family before informing the public of her diagnosis.
She notified premier John Horgan soon after her diagnosis.
“In late January, Finance Minister and Deputy Premier Carole James informed me that she is in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease,” Horgan said.
“I was upset and concerned for my colleague and my friend. She has only mild physical symptoms, and I was pleased when she told me she is able to continue to serve in cabinet as Finance Minister and Deputy Premier.
Horgan says he is grateful to Minister James for the work she has done and ‘all she will continue to do’.
“It’s not a disease that anyone wants. But it is not a terminal diagnosis,” James said.
“Symptoms generally develop slowly, and the progress of the disease varies from person to person. There’s no cure, but there are treatments and medications to deal with the symptoms as they arrive.”
James says she is sharing the information now to be open with what she is facing in support of others living with Parkinson’s. Between 10,000 and 13,000 people in B.C. live with the disease.
“Many of those people worry about stigma and what will happen if they reach out for support. If sharing my story can help others, that’s a good thing. As the symptoms of this very visible disease do surface, there is no need to hide them,” James said.
“For now, I have a manageable hand tremor and I’m more careful with my balance. I haven’t noticed any other symptoms and I don’t need to start medication yet.”
James says she will remain as Finance Minister as long as she can give ‘100 per cent’ to the job. She will continue the Budget 2020 tour throughout the province next week.
“I have had the privilege of serving the people of Victoria-Beacon Hill since 2005, and I’ll be taking time over the next year and a half to express my gratitude to my community,” James said.
“Needless to say, this is not what I had planned for the next part of my life. But each of us could face an unexpected, life-changing experience tomorrow. I have a name for mine, and I have an understanding of what the future may bring, which is all the more reason to take full advantage of each and every day.”
In 2006, James announced publicly that she had been diagnosed with localized uterine endometrial cancer. She underwent surgery and radiation treatment.
James was first elected as an MLA in 2005 and served as BC NDP leader from 2005 to 2011.
James has served as finance minister and deputy premier since the NDP government came to power in July 2017. She served on the NDP’s negotiating team that struck a deal with the BC Greens to make John Horgan premier.