Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) announced on Sunday night he has Stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
The 79-year-old civil rights icon received the diagnosis after a routine medical checkup. Lewis will undergo treatment for cancer.
“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,” Lewis, who in March 1965 joined forces with Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, said in a statement.
He continued: “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 added that he would return to Washington in the coming days to start his treatment plan. It will last several weeks.
He said, “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.”
Lewis was first elected to Congress in 1986.
A number of political figures responded to the news.
“Rep. John Lewis is a fighter in every way. We pray, hope, and believe that he will win this fight as well,” wrote Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Twitter.
“Nothing has slowed John Lewis’s fight for justice yet, and I know that won’t change now. Today as he readies for another, different battle, he has a grateful nation at his back,” said Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.) on Twitter.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), a Democratic presidential candidate, also wrote: “If there is one person who embodies what it means to be a fighter—it’s John Lewis. I know he will battle this diagnosis with the same strength and courage he has carried himself with over the course of his life. John, Abigail, and I are praying for you and your family.”
Wrote former President 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.”
According to Cancer.net, “This year, an estimated 56,770 adults (29,940 men and 26,830 women) in the United States will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The disease causes approximately 3 percent of all cancers. Incidence rates are 25 percent higher in black people than in white people.”