Civil Rights Icon U.S. Rep. John Lewis Announces Stage IV Pancreatic Cancer Diagnosis: 'I Am Going To Fight It'
“I may miss a few votes during this period, but with God’s grace I will be back on the front lines soon," Lewis said in announcing his diagnosis.
December 30, 2019 at 2:55 pm
Representative John Lewis (D-GA) revealed he has Stage IV pancreatic cancer. The diagnosis was made during a routine medical visit this month.
The Democratic congressman, who has represented Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District since 1987, made the announcement via a statement on Sunday. He will be undergoing treatment in Washington D.C. in the next several weeks.
“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,” the civil rights icon's statement read.
Lewis said he plans to keep working despite the diagnosis.
“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,” he wrote. “I may miss a few votes during this period, but with God’s grace I will be back on the front lines soon."
Following his announcement, many well wishes from fellow politicians and political activists began to pour in, including a message from Barack Obama.
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
Bernice King encouraged people to lift Lewis up rather than focus on his diagnosis.
#JohnLewis is alive.
Let’s not bury him in response to a diagnosis, no matter how dire.
Encourage him. pic.twitter.com/5kaDIj174O
— Be A King (@BerniceKing) December 30, 2019
Representative Ilhan Omar also sent her well wishes for a speedy recovery.
John Lewis is a giant—an icon of the civil rights movement, a leader in Congress and one of the kindest people I know.
I’m praying for a speedy and full recovery. We need you making good trouble in the halls of Congress!
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) December 29, 2019
Lewis is the last living member of the “Big 6” leaders, reports NPR. The Big 6 is a group of prominent Black people who were at the forefront of the civil rights movement and includes Whitney Young, A. Philip Randolph, Martin Luther King Jr., James Farmer and Roy Wilkins. Lewis, the youngest of the six, was the representative for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). He was also one of the planners and a keynote speaker for the 1963 March on Washington.
During Lewis’ tenure, the SNCC opened Freedom Schools and launched Freedom Summer, according to The Atlantic. Lewis was also one of the 13 original freedom riders.
In 1970, Lewis became the director of the Voter Education Project (VEP). Under his leadership, the VEP became an independent organization, according to the Georgia Encyclopedia. He also pushed the VEP to expand its services to poor and minority citizens, rather than solely focusing on Black Americans. He also launched the Voter Mobilization Tours, campaigning door to door encouraging people to register to vote.
During his time as a representative, Lewis has overseen multiple renewals of the Voting Rights Act. In 2016, following the Orlando mass shooting, Lewis led a House Democrats sit-in to protest the GOP’s refusal to allow a vote on gun control. More than 120 congressmen and women occupied the House floor, reports Politico.
“We have been too quiet for too long. There comes a time when you have to say something. You have to make a little noise. You have to move your feet. This is the time,” Lewis said at the sit-in. “Give us a vote. Let us vote. We came here to do our job. We came here to work.”