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Alabama native, civil rights icon U.S. Rep. John Lewis diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer

Congressman John Lewis (D-GA), a native of Alabama known nationwide as a hero of the civil rights movement, on Sunday announced that he will undergo treatment after being diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer.

A release from Lewis’ office outlined that Lewis will continue serving Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District as he undergoes treatment.

“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 said in a statement.

“This month in a routine medical visit, and subsequent tests, doctors discovered Stage IV pancreatic cancer. This diagnosis has been reconfirmed,” he advised. “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.”

“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 continued.

The congressman added that “with God’s grace” he “will be back on the front lines soon.” He also asked for prayers.

“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,” Lewis concluded. “Please keep me in your prayers as I begin this journey.”

Lewis was born February 21, 1940 in Troy, Alabama. His parents were sharecroppers and Lewis grew up in Pike County. He is also forever tied to the Yellowhammer State through the civil rights movement, in which he was a pivotal leader. This included Lewis supporting the Montgomery Bus Boycott and leading marchers over Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge on “Bloody Sunday” in 1965. He was one of the 13 original Freedom Riders; the bus route included several stops in Alabama, and Lewis has recounted that he was knocked unconscious by a mob in Montgomery while traveling the route, saying he thought he was going to die that day.

Words of support came pouring in from his native state after Lewis’ diagnosis was announced on Sunday.

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin tweeted that his prayers go out to Lewis.

“But there are two words that are synonymous with Rep. Lewis – fighting and victory. He will not go down without a fight; he will not cease until he achieves victory. That’s what heroes do,” Woodfin added. “As always, the City of Birmingham and the world are in your corner, congressman. Stay strong.”

State Sen. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) tweeted, When I worked for Congressman Bachus, Rep. John Lewis came to speak at the Civil Rights Institute in Bham & I was lucky to get to sit by him. Fascinating conversation. His story is amazing & he’s a great #American[.] Praying for a speedy recovery!!”

“No one can question the tenacity and fight of John Lewis. Rebecca and I will join countless Americans in praying for him, his doctors, and his family as they prepare for the fight ahead,” Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) tweeted.

UPDATE 8:10 p.m.:

In a Facebook post, Congresswoman Terri Sewell (AL-07) called for prayers for Lewis and said, “I know that my friend and mentor John Lewis will face his health diagnosis with the same faith, determination and courage that he displayed in our nation’s darkest moments, when he fought for equality and justice. I thank God for his gentle, fighting spirit, knowing that it will continue to serve him well in the battles ahead. We need his leadership now more than ever.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

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