On Sunday night, Georgia representative and civil-rights leader John Lewis announced he is being treated for stage 4 pancreatic cancer. “I have been in some kind of fight — for freedom, equality, basic human rights — for nearly my entire life,” Lewis said in a statement. “I have never faced a fight quite like the one I have now.”
Pancreatic cancer has a five-year survival rate of 9 percent, according to the American Cancer Society, though Lewis also announced he would continue to represent Georgia’s Fifth District, which encompasses about three-fourths of Atlanta. “To my constituents: being your representative in Congress is the honor of a lifetime,” he wrote. “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.”
Lewis, who has represented the Fifth District since 1986, was a founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and was active in the Freedom Rides in 1961, the March on Washington in 1963, and the Selma to Montgomery march in 1965; he had his skull broken on Bloody Sunday when white police officers beat protesters on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. For his service in Congress and his record in the civil-rights movement, Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011. On Sunday, Obama tweeted his support for Lewis, as did House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.