Congressman John Lewis fighting biggest battle: Pancreatic cancer

Free Press wire reports | 1/2/2020, 6 a.m.
Messages of support are pouring in for Congressman John Lewis, known as “the conscience of the Congress,” following his announcement ...
Rep. Lewis

Messages of support are pouring in for Congressman John Lewis, known as “the conscience of the Congress,” following his announcement Sunday that he is facing a foe like none before: Advanced pancreatic cancer.

As a civil rights activist at 25, Rep. Lewis was beaten so badly his skull was fractured and the TV images from an Alabama bridge in the 1960s forced a nation’s awakening to racial discrimination.

As a congressman today at 79, the veteran Democratic congressman from Georgia said, “I have never faced a fight quite like the one I have now.”

He said Sunday in Washington that the stage 4 cancer was detected earlier this month and confirmed in a diagnosis.

Rep. Lewis has had many battles, and this he views as one more dawning. He was arrested at least 40 times during the Civil Rights Movement when he worked with and later served as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and several more times as a congressman since first being elected in 1986. Recently, he has been rallying to help reunite immigrant families separated by the Trump administration.

The youngest and last survivor of the Big Six civil rights activists who organized the 1963 March on Washington, a group once led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Rep. Lewis made clear that he has no plans to step aside while he undergoes treatment.

He said being elected to Congress “has been the honor of a lifetime” and that he will continue working for his constituents from Capitol Hill.

“I have been in some kind of fight — for freedom, equality, basic human rights — for nearly my entire life,” he said.

Added Lewis: “I have a fighting chance.”

“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,” former President Obama said in a social media message of support for Rep. Lewis.

Expressions of encouragement and faith were posted by the powerful in Congress to the people Rep. Lewis represents and others around the country.

He declined to say where he would receive cancer treatment or what that would entail.

“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 in asking for prayers.

Rep. Lewis also said he was “clear-eyed about the prognosis” even as doctors have told him that recent medical advances have made this type of cancer treatable in many cases. He added that “treatment options are no longer as debilitating as they once were.”

The American Cancer Society estimates 3 percent of patients with stage 4 pancreatic cancer are alive five years after being diagnosed.