BREAKING: Congressman John Lewis diagnosed with pancreatic cancer

04/08/2019 -- Atlanta, Georgia -- Congressman John Lewis speaks during his art exhibit tribute in the atrium of the domestic terminal at Atlanta's Hartsfield Jackson International Airport, Monday, April 8, 2019. The art exhibit "John Lewis-Good Trouble" was unveiled Monday with historical artifacts, audio and visual installations and tributes to the congressman.  (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

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04/08/2019 -- Atlanta, Georgia -- Congressman John Lewis speaks during his art exhibit tribute in the atrium of the domestic terminal at Atlanta's Hartsfield Jackson International Airport, Monday, April 8, 2019. The art exhibit "John Lewis-Good Trouble" was unveiled Monday with historical artifacts, audio and visual installations and tributes to the congressman. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Said he expects to miss upcoming votes as his treatment begins

Rep. John Lewis announced Sunday that he is battling Stage IV pancreatic cancer and will begin undergoing treatments.

The 79-year-old congressman from Atlanta and civil rights icon said that he is prepared to fight.

“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 said Sunday. "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, who represents the 5th Congressional District of Georgia, said that he was diagnosed during a routine medical visit this month.

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The Auburn Avenue mural of U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia) was voted the best mural in the city in an AJC poll. Contributed by Sweet Auburn Works

The Auburn Avenue mural of U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia) was voted the best mural in the city in an AJC poll. Contributed by Sweet Auburn Works

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The Auburn Avenue mural of U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia) was voted the best mural in the city in an AJC poll. Contributed by Sweet Auburn Works

In a message to his constituents, Lewis warned that he might miss a few upcoming votes, “but with God’s grace I will be back on the front lines soon.”

He said that he will return to Washington in the coming days “to continue our work and begin my treatment plan, which will occur over the next several weeks.”

“I have been in some kind of fight for freedom, equality, basic human rights — for nearly my entire life,” Lewis said. “I have never faced a fight quite like the one I have now.”

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2/3/19 - Atlanta - John Lewis and Andrew Young on the field with Jamie Foxx before the New England Patriots play the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII on Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Ga. 
CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

Credit: Curtis Compton

2/3/19 - Atlanta - John Lewis and Andrew Young on the field with Jamie Foxx before the New England Patriots play the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII on Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Ga.   
CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

Credit: Curtis Compton

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2/3/19 - Atlanta - John Lewis and Andrew Young on the field with Jamie Foxx before the New England Patriots play the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII on Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Ga. 
CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

An aide for Lewis said the Congressman has been relatively healthy, although he was hospitalized in July 2018 after falling ill on a flight to Atlanta from Detroit. He was hospitalized for “routine observation,” after feeling dizzy and sweaty on the plane.

For all of his years in congress – 32 and counting -- Lewis is perhaps best known as a pivotal figure in the civil rights movement.

A native of Alabama, he rose out of the Nashville student movements and quickly became a key ally of Martin Luther King Jr. He was the youngest speaker at the March on Washington in 1963.

But his legacy within the movement was often marked by violence. In 1961, he was beaten and bloodied as a Freedom Rider, and in 1965 he was beaten in the skull by a state trooper in Selma during what became known as “Bloody Sunday.”

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Congressman John Lewis on the Edmund Pettus Bridge February 14, 2015. On March 7, 1965 Hosea Williams and John Lewis led 600 civil rights activists across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in a march for voting rights. Lewis had no idea the level of violence that awaited the group on the other side of the bridge. In what would become known around the country as as Bloody Sunday, state troopers and sheriff deputies used tear gas and clubs to break up the march. Leaving Lewis with a skull fracture and sending more than 50 others to the local hospital for treatment.

Credit: BRANT SANDERLIN / BSANDERLIN@AJ

Congressman John Lewis on the Edmund Pettus Bridge February 14, 2015. On March 7, 1965 Hosea Williams and John Lewis led 600 civil rights activists across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in a march for voting rights. Lewis had no idea the level of violence that awaited the group on the other side of the bridge. In what would become known around the country as as Bloody Sunday, state troopers and sheriff deputies used tear gas and clubs to break up the march. Leaving Lewis with a skull fracture and sending more than 50 others to the local hospital for treatment.

Credit: BRANT SANDERLIN / BSANDERLIN@AJ

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Congressman John Lewis on the Edmund Pettus Bridge February 14, 2015. On March 7, 1965 Hosea Williams and John Lewis led 600 civil rights activists across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in a march for voting rights. Lewis had no idea the level of violence that awaited the group on the other side of the bridge. In what would become known around the country as as Bloody Sunday, state troopers and sheriff deputies used tear gas and clubs to break up the march. Leaving Lewis with a skull fracture and sending more than 50 others to the local hospital for treatment.

Credit: BRANT SANDERLIN / BSANDERLIN@AJ

Credit: BRANT SANDERLIN / BSANDERLIN@AJ

The attack spurred support throughout the nation and Congress for what became the Voting Rights Act of 1965. But in reflecting on that horrible day, Lewis would say: “I was hit in the head by a State Trooper. I thought I saw death. I thought I was going to die.”

In 2010, President Barack Obama awarded Lewis with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor.

After the ceremony, Lewis said in marvel: “If somebody told me one day I would be standing in the White House, and an African American president presenting me the Medal of Freedom, I would have said, ‘Are you crazy’? Are you out of your mind?”

In 2016, he was awarded a National Book Award for his graphic novel, “March: Book Three.”

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