Civil Rights Hero and Long-Serving Congressman John Lewis Ready to Fight Stage IV Pancreatic Cancer

Civil Rights icon and longtime Georgia Congressman John Lewis has Stage IV pancreatic cancer.

The 79-year-old Democrat, who played an integral role in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, announced his condition in a press release on his website.

Lewis, who has represented Georgia's 5th congressional district since 1987, will begin treatment immediately, according to the release.

“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," said Lewis is the statement.

On March 7, 1965 Lewis was bloodied by Alabama State Troopers while attempting to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. during a peaceful civil rights march. Lewis' skull was cracked in the brutal attack now known as Bloody Sunday.

Senator and presidential candidate Cory Booker took to twitter to offer his hopes for Lewis.

"John Lewis is one of the greatest agents of change in American history — I wouldn't be a US Senator if it weren't for the chain of protest unleashed by his act of protest on an Alabama bridge. Holding him in my heart as he battles cancer. Keep fighting, keep making good trouble."

As did fellow senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. "Jane and I are keeping Rep. John Lewis and his family in our thoughts during this difficult time and hoping for a speedy recovery. Despite this news, I have no doubt Rep. Lewis will continue to inspire millions and fight for justice as he has his entire life."

Lewis, who got his start in the movement during the Nashville sit-ins, is an original Freedom Rider who was also beaten by angry white mobs in Rock Hill, South Carolina and Montgomery, Alabama, before being arrested in Jackson, Miss. and sent to Mississippi's Parchman State Prison.

Lewis, whose cancer was discovered during a routine physical, posted a message to his supporters.

“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.

“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.”

What is Stage IV Pancreatic Cancer?

Stage IV pancreatic cancer means the cancer has spread, or metastasized, to another part of the body, often times to the liver, abdominal wall, lungs, bones and faraway lymph nodes. And according to Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PCAN), most pancreatic cancers are discovered at stage IV.

What are the Treatments?

According to the PCAN, stage IV pancreatic cancer can not be treated with surgery, and is typically treated through the blood stream in order to reach the many cancer cells spread throughout the body. Chemotherapy is a common treatment, as well as new approaches such as immunotherapy, that boosts the body's immune system using "substances made by the body or in a laboratory" to fight cancer. The PCAN recommends the following steps:

  • Discussing treatment goals with your doctor(s) and health care providers, and being aware of all options.

  • Clinical trials at every step along the way beginning at diagnosis.

  • Molecular Profiling of your tumor to better determine the best forms of treatment.

  • Symptom management and supportive care early in your diagnosis as well as during and after treatment.

How You Can Join the Fight

To help join the fight against pancreatic cancer you can volunteer at or donate to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, as well as at the American Cancer Society.