Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), an icon of the civil rights movement, announced Sunday, Dec. 29, that he will undergo treatment for stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
Lewis, 79, who served 17-terms as congressman, learned of the diagnosis earlier this month after a routine doctor’s visit.
“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 the statement.
Lewis, who represents Georgia’s 5th Congressional District, said he will continue to serve in Congress despite the diagnosis.
“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 said.
Lewis admitted the tough challenge he’s going to face now, though he had overcome various battles throughout his career since he was elected to Congress in 1986.
“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,” he said.
He received an outpouring support from his colleagues and friends.
“If there’s anyone with the strength and courage to fight this, it’s you John,” former President Bill Clinton tweeted. “Hillary and I love you, and we join with millions of other Americans in praying for you and your family.”
If there’s anyone with the strength and courage to fight this, it’s you, John. Hillary and I love you, and we join with millions of other Americans in praying for you and your family. https://t.co/gNVEu1dijU
— Bill Clinton (@BillClinton) December 29, 2019
“If there’s one thing I love about @RepJohnLewis, it’s his incomparable will to fight,” tweeted former President Barack Obama. “I know he’s got a lot more of that left in him. Praying for you, my friend.”
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
“Praying for my friend and hero @repjohnlewis who has as much bravery and strength as anyone I’ve ever known,” Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), wrote on Twitter.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), said that “generations of Americans” had Lewis “in their thoughts & prayers.”
.@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
Lewis said he plans to return to Washington “in coming days to continue our work and begin my treatment plan, which will occur over the next several weeks.”
He acknowledged that he may miss a few votes during the treatment, “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,” he added.