By Hazel Trice Edney
Civil rights giant John Lewis, representing Georgia’s 5th Congressional District in the U. S. House of Representatives for 32 years, has announced that he has been diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer and that he is up for the battle.
“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,” stated the storied congressman.
Lewis is perhaps best known for his leadership on “Bloody Sunday”, March 7, 1965, when Georgia state troopers brutally assaulted him and others as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which he chaired, crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, marching from Selma to Montgomery.
“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,” he said.
According to the statement, posted on his Congressional website Sunday, doctors gave him the diagnosis following a “routine medical visit, and subsequent tests”. He sought and received reconfirmation.
Congressman Lewis, a man of faith who has faced many battle on behalf of others, says he is prepared to fight for his life through medical science and prayer.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “pancreatic cancer is the fifth leading cause of death from cancer and the 11th most common cancer in the United States.” However, the CDC also reports that “the five-year survival rate” from pancreatic cancer has slightly improved in recent years. Among Whites, the five-year survival rate is at 5.4 percent and among Blacks, the five-year survival rate is at 4.3 percent, according to the CDC.
Nearly – but not all – “patients with the disease die of it, and most die within one year of diagnosis,” the CDC states. The National Institute of Health reports that “no patient has survived longer than 10 years and the longest overall survival is 8.6 years.”
“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,” Lewis states, stressing that he will continue to serve the people of the 5th Congressional District of Georgia. “To my constituents: being your representative in Congress is the honor of a lifetime. I will return to Washington in coming days to continue our work and begin my treatment plan, which will occur over the next several weeks. I may miss a few votes during this period, 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.”