U.S. Rep. Lewis, a Democrat representing the heart of metro Atlanta, announced his diagnosis of Stage IV pancreatic cancer Dec. 29.
“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 said in his statement.
He also told his constituents he would continue to represent them through his treatment, although he may miss some votes. And he asked for prayers.
“The congressman has fought so valiantly for our nation; we join him now in this fight and offer our prayers for his full recovery,” said Elaine Hardy, who chairs the Lansing commission that organizes the holiday luncheon.
Before starting his political career, Lewis earned recognition for his activism in the 1960s. He organized sit-in demonstrations at segregated lunch counters, participated in the 1961 Freedom Rides to protest segregation in the southern U.S., gave a speech during the 1963 March on Washington and led the peaceful protesters calling for voting rights legislation across a bridge in Selma, Alabama during the “Bloody Sunday” attack in 1965.
When Lewis announced his illness, he said doctors discovered the cancer during a routine visit and confirmed the diagnosis during subsequent tests.
The civil rights leader promised constituents he would fight his cancer the way he has fought for freedom, equality and basic human rights.
“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,” Lewis said “We still have many bridges to cross.”
Pancreatic cancer is the same disease that Jeopardy host Alex Trebek is fighting. Both Trebek and Lewis are 79. Doctors also treated U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for pancreatic cancer. Justice Ginsburg is 86 and recently declared herself cancer free.
Stage IV pancreatic cancer means the disease, which is initially hard to detect, has spread to other organs, typically the liver or the lungs. Pancreatic cancer can be treated
Former President Barack Obama tweeted: “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.”