Civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., announced Sunday that he is undergoing treatment for stage four pancreatic cancer.
Discovered during a routine medical visit, and subsequent tests, the announcement comes two months after the death of another civil rights icon, Rep. Elijah Cummings, who passed away on Oct. 17 after a long illness.
Optimistic in his chances of fighting cancer, the 79-year-old lawmaker who marched alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said he plans to stay in office while undergoing treatment.
“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 release.
“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,” Lewis continued. “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,” he concluded. “I will return to Washington in coming days to continue our work and begin my treatment plan. I may miss a few votes during this period, but with God’s grace I will be back on the front lines soon.”
Pancreatic cancer is one of the most deadly forms of cancer. According to the latest data from the American Cancer Society, the survival rate over five years for all forms pancreatic cancer is at 9%.
Pancreatic cancer is the 10th most commonly diagnosed cancer in men in the United States, and the ninth most common in women. It accounts for about 7% of all cancer deaths.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was diagnosed in 2009 with early stage pancreatic cancer, and the 86-year-old jurist just completed three weeks of radiation treatment over the summer for a localized cancerous tumor on her pancreas, after having cancerous growths removed from her lungs in December 2018.
Well wishes poured in, with former President Barack Obama, who awarded Lewis the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2010, leading the way.
“If there’s one thing I love about @RepJohnLewis, it’s his incomparable will to fight. I know he’s got a lot more of that left in him. Praying for you, my friend,” Obama said in a tweet.
If there’s one thing I love about @RepJohnLewis, it’s his incomparable will to fight. I know he’s got a lot more of that left in him. Praying for you, my friend.
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) December 30, 2019
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., took time away from her one-sided pursuits to take out a duly elected president and push the country to the brink of a constitutional crisis to offer Lewis her best wishes, sharing a photo of the two of them.
“We are all praying for you following this diagnosis,” she tweeted. “John, know that generations of Americans have you in their thoughts & prayers as you face this fight. We are all praying that you are comfortable. We know that you will be well.”
.@RepJohnLewis, we are all praying for you following this diagnosis. John, know that generations of Americans have you in their thoughts & prayers as you face this fight. We are all praying that you are comfortable. We know that you will be well. pic.twitter.com/j7YMUGLPC2
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) December 29, 2019
Aside from the unfortunate news, the tweets from Obama and Pelosi would suggest that Democrats have deemed the offering of prayers to once again be an acceptable means of showing support — this having been a point of contention on the left in regard to gun violence.
Here’s a quick sampling of other responses to the announcement from Lewis, from right and left:
Prayers and comfort for a courageous and timeless civil rights hero. https://t.co/4ebCh9O4vy
— Kellyanne Conway (@KellyannePolls) December 30, 2019
Rep. John Lewis is a fighter in every way.
We pray, hope, and believe that he will win this fight as well.https://t.co/pE2LF6y38t
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) December 30, 2019
Very saddened to learn that the great Congressman and Civil Rights Champion, Representative #JohnLewis, has been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
I am praying for him and encouraged by the knowledge that he is a legendary fighter.
Fight on, sir. pic.twitter.com/2bLNb8Vs2e
— Be A King (@BerniceKing) December 30, 2019
John Lewis is one of the strongest people I know. He already beat Jim Crow and the Ku Klux Klan—cancer is next. Please join me in lifting him and his family in prayer. https://t.co/vuGnFwdnlV
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) December 30, 2019
My friend John Lewis has gone up the rough side of the mountain many times before and his battle with pancreatic cancer is no different. Our nation is praying for you, John.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) December 30, 2019
Deeply saddened by news that @RepJohnLewis has stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
Champion. Hero. Legend.
Mr. Lewis has always been there to fight for America.
America must now be there to pray for and stand with him during this time of need.
— Hakeem Jeffries (@RepJeffries) December 30, 2019
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