Jeff Cook, a member of Country Music Hall of Fame group Alabama, revealed he is suffering from Parkinson's Disease and will stop touring immediately.
Cook, the group's guitarist and fiddler, revealed that he received his diagnosis nearly four years ago. Members Randy Owen and Teddy Gentry kept the news secret until now, according to The Tennesseean.
Parkinson's Disease is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. The disease develops gradually, sometimes starting with barely noticeable tremors. Parkinson's Disease does not have a cure, but medications may improve symptoms.
Starting April 29, Cook is choosing to take a step back because of how the disease is taking a toll on his body.
Although Cook is ending his time on tour, he is still planning on returning for a show in Orange Beach, Ala. and a fan event in June. Cook says he intends on appearing at some shows to sing depending on how he is feeling.
Both Gentry and Owen said that keeping the disease a secret was hard. People began to speculate Cook was suffering from substance abuse. Owen's said that was the hardest part, knowing they couldn't tell anyone, but while defending Cook's image.
Cook says he first noticed something was wrong when he couldn't accurately cast his fishing lure. Then, he had difficulty hitting certain notes on the guitar. Cook thought he had pinched a nerve, while Gentry and Owen were afraid he was suffering from a stroke. After seeing the doctor he speculated Cook had Parkinson's. When the test came back positive, Cook said he felt "empty".
In a video shared exclusively on The Tennessean, Cook described the disease as one that robs you of your coordination, balance and induces tremors, making touring extremely frustrating. He added that he did not want to burden anyone with the details of his condition and wanted the music and party to go on.
Once hearing the news, Cook told both Owen and Gentry immediately. The group already faced a similar problem like this when Gentry was diagnosed with cancer in 2010. Discussing the possibilities, the group decided they would only continue playing if they received Cook's word to keep playing.
The band hopes that their friend can get better and begin playing with them again. To show their love and support for Cook, the group will always have a mic open for Cook on stage during their performances.
Cook emphasized that he is not calling it quits because of this disease. He is only taking a break to help his body heal.
"If I'm healed overnight, I'll be at the next show," Cook told The Tennessean. "I do believe in prayer and I'm not giving up."
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