Louie Villalobos, USA TODAY
Published 6: 43 p.m. ET Dec. 29, 2019 | Updated 5: 27 p.m. ET Dec. 30, 2019
Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights icon, has been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, according to a press release from his office.
Lewis, who represents the 5th Congressional District of Georgia, says in the statement that he plans to continue serving during treatment. He said the cancer was discovered during tests following a routine medical visit.
“I have been in some kind of fight – for freedom, equality, basic human rights – for nearly my entire life,” he said. “I have never faced a fight quite like the one I have now.”
Lewis, 79, asked for prayers in his statement and said he has a “fighting chance.”
In the 1960s, Lewis was one of the founding members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which advocated for civil rights with demonstrations at lunch counters and voter registration drives. The initial Freedom Ride was attacked in Rock Hill, S.C., and Montgomery, Ala.
Arrested, jailed and beaten for challenging Jim Crow laws, Lewis went on to become a national figure by his early 20s and the youngest of the Big Six civil rights leaders. He organized the March on Washington in 1963, where he provided a keynote speech.
Congress: Read his statement below
I have been in some kind of fight – for freedom, equality, basic human rights – for nearly my entire life. I have never faced a fight quite like the one I have now.
This month in a routine medical visit, and subsequent tests, doctors discovered Stage IV pancreatic cancer. This diagnosis has been reconfirmed.
While I am clear-eyed about the prognosis, doctors have told me that recent medical advances have made this type of cancer treatable in many cases, that treatment options are no longer as debilitating as they once were, and that I have a fighting chance.
So I have decided to do what I know to do and do what I have always done: I am going to fight it and keep fighting for the Beloved Community. We still have many bridges to cross.
To my constituents: being your representative in Congress is the honor of a lifetime. I will return to Washington in coming days to continue our work and begin my treatment plan, which will occur over the next several weeks. I may miss a few votes during this period, but with God’s grace I will be back on the front lines soon.
Please keep me in your prayers as I begin this journey.
In the hours after Lewis’ announcement, former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama both expressed their best wishes via Twitter.
“If there’s anyone with the strength and courage to fight this, it’s you, John,” Clinton said. “Hillary and I love you, and we join with millions of other Americans in praying for you and your family.”
“If there’s one thing I love about @RepJohnLewis, it’s his incomparable will to fight,” Obama said. “I know he’s got a lot more of that left in him. Praying for you, my friend.”
Contributing: Deborah Berry and Ton Vanden Brook, USA TODAY.
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