Lewis was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer in December

By Sean Neumann
January 02, 2020 02:12 PM
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Rep. John Lewis spoke out for the first time since his office announced his stage IV pancreatic cancer diagnosis earlier this week, saying he is “ready for the fight.”

The longtime congressman and renowned Civil Rights activist spoke with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on New Year’s Eve about his diagnosis.

“It is a challenge and a fight. But I have had challenges before and been fighting all my life,” Lewis told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I am ready for the fight. I will go through the treatment and face the day each day like it is a new day. I will continue to be hopeful and optimistic.”

Pancreatic cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Patients often don’t exhibit symptoms until the cancer is already in its late stages, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Doctors discovered his stage IV cancer during a routine checkup, Lewis said in an announcement on Sunday.

“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, 79, said in the statement.

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Rep. Lewis was one of the key speakers at the March on Washington in 1963 where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. He was also a leader at the march in Selma, Alabama, on March 7, 1965.

President Barack Obama awarded Rep. Lewis with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his life’s work in 2011.

The congressman told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he’s feeling good despite the diagnosis.

“I am doing good,” he told the newspaper. “I am feeling well.”

Rep. Lewis also told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he’s not planning on retiring or giving up his seat in the House, which he’s held for 32 years since he was first elected in 1986.

He also thanked everyone for the well wishes, which poured in after his office released a statement Sunday announcing his diagnosis.

“It means so much that people all over America and different parts of the world are worried about me,” Lewis said. “After the announcement, in a matter of a few hours, I had more than 154 calls coming to my personal phone. A lot of it from young people, and some people my age, who have been deeply moved and inspired by the civil rights movement. That is what the movement was all about, trying to help people.”