The hearts of many were beating a little heavier Dec. 29 as civil rights icon and U.S. Democratic Rep. John Lewis of Georgia announced that he has been diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. The 79-year-old leader said he received his diagnosis after undergoing a routine medical visit which consisted of examinations that reconfirmed the illness, CNN reported.
Lewis said he will receive treatment for the cancer.
“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,” Lewis said in a statement.
“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,” he continued. “So I have decided to do what I know how 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.”
Lewis said that he will return to Wash., D.C., to begin his treatment.
He addressed his constituents in the statement. “I may miss a few votes during this period, but with God’s grace I will be back on the front lines soon,” he said before adding: “Please keep me in your prayers as I begin this journey.”
The longtime Georgia congressman who has been representing the state’s Fifth Congressional District since 1987, fell ill in July 2018 and was hospitalized but released thereafter. NewsOne reported at that Lewis left the hospital with a “clean bill of health.”
Lewis’ spokeswoman, Brenda Jones, said in a statement, “All tests have been completed. He thanks everyone who shared their thoughts, prayers and concerns during his stay.”
The lawmaker was on a flight leaving Detroit when he began to have dizzy spells and started sweating.
As a young activist and leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in 1965, Lewis worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to lead a voting rights march in Selma, Alabama. In 1986, he was elected to Congress representing Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District. In February 2011, he was honored for his role in the civil rights movement by former President Barack Obama who presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.