Even in a jam-packed political week in the United States when the Iowa caucuses took place on Monday, the State of the Union address by the president on Tuesday and the impeachment vote in the Senate on Wednesday, I spent a lot of time being distracted by pancreatic cancer.
Because I've been living with it since 2017, that shouldn't be notable. But I have felt unusually healthy in the past few months and I was thinking about well-known people who live with the same disease.
This came to mind on Monday when Wayne State University bestowed its Walter P. Reuther Humanitarian Award to Georgia Representative John Lewis “in recognition of Lewis’s decades-long history of political leadership and grassroots advocacy.”
First noting that he voted to impeach President Donald Trump, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) recently summarized Lewis's distinguished life and career:
”Before he was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Lewis was and remains a key figure in America’s civil rights movement. A key ally of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Lewis was the youngest speaker at the 1963 March on Washington, representing the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, of which he was the chairman.
“In 1961, as one of the original Freedom Riders, he was beaten and bloodied as they rode through the South addressing laws prohibiting black and white riders from sitting next to each other on public transportation.
“The 1965 attack in Selma, where Lewis has said, 'I thought I saw death. I thought I was going to die,' sparked nationwide support, sympathy and horror and spurred Congress to move on what became the Voting Rights Act of 1965.”
Lewis was unable to attend the presentation of the award at Wayne State because he is undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer.
In a 1 January interview, Representative Lewis told an AJC reporter,
“'As you well know, I will be going through something that I have never been through before,' Lewis said. 'I have had friends and colleagues who have gone through similar situations. I will be talking and learning from them and obeying my physicians.'”
Me too - obeying my physicians which has worked our pretty well. And I wish with all my might that it will do the same for Representative Lewis. We need people like him in Congress, and more like him.
I don't know Lewis. I've never met him and I've never lived in 5th Congressional District in Georgia so he has not been my representative.
But if I had lived there, I surely would have voted for him in every one of the 17 elections he has won and I would vote for him again in November this year. There are not many in public life these days who are as decent and good and honorable as Lewis.
Pancreatic cancer is way down the list of cancers in terms of prevalence. Number 12 behind much more common cancers as breast, lung and prostate – the top three. But it is one of the top three deadliest.
Is that the reason, I sometimes wonder, that I feel a kinship with anyone who is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Even people I don't know. Maybe that is how Jeopardy! host, Alex Trebek – who has been treated for pancreatic cancer since early last year – felt when he was quoted on the website of radio station WABE in Atlanta:
“We’re starting a new year, and let’s see if we can’t both complete the year as pancreatic cancer survivors,” Trebek said when asked what he would tell Lewis. He noted they’re the same age, 79.”
At his announcement of the diagnosis, Representative Lewis told the AJC,
“'I’ve been in some kind of fight – for freedom, equality, basic human rights – for nearly my entire life,' he said. 'I have never faced a fight quite like this one.'
“He added, in a message to constituents, that he might miss a few upcoming votes as he undergoes treatment, 'but with God’s grace I will be back on the front lines soon.'”
Yes. Please. Here's is a photo of Lewis at the Pride Parade in Atlanta in October 2019 posted on the AJC website.
Amidst all the political hullaballoo this week, my former husband and I recorded a new episode of The Alex and Ronni Show on Tuesday.