Congressman John Lewis says cancer is his latest battle

Georgia Democratic congressman John Lewis has been diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer.

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The 79-year-old Lewis says he has fought many struggles in his lifetime. Yet, he said, “I have never faced a fight quite like the one I have now," announcing Sunday in Washington that the cancer was detected earlier this month and confirmed in a diagnosis.

Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga. testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington at the confirmation hearing for Attorney General-designate Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)

Lewis has had many battles, and this he views cancer as one more dawning. He was arrested at least 40 times in the civil rights era, several more times as a congressman since being elected in 1986 and only recently he has been rallying to help reunite immigrant families separated by the Trump administration.

The youngest and last survivor of the Big Six civil rights activists, a group once led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Lewis made clear that he has no plans to step aside from power while he undergoes treatment.

He said being elected to Congress "has been the honor of a lifetime” and that he will continue working for his constituents from Capitol Hill.

“I have been in some kind of fight — for freedom, equality, basic human rights — for nearly my entire life," he said.

Added Lewis: "Ï have a fighting chance."

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He declined to say where he would receive cancer treatment or what that would entail. But he said he may not always be around the halls of Congress in the coming weeks.

The American Cancer Society estimates 3 percent of patients with stage 4 pancreatic cancer are alive five years after being diagnosed.

Sometimes called the "conscience of the Congress," Lewis led hundreds of protesters in the 1965 Bloody Sunday march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama.

He was at the head of the march when he was knocked to the ground and beaten by police. The nationally televised images forced the country's attention on the racial inequalities being fought by King and so many others.

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Lewis turned to politics in 1981 when he was elected to the Atlanta City Council.

President Barack Obama presents a 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom to Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

In 2011 he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama, who had marched with Lewis hand in hand in Selma on the 50th anniversary of the Bloody Sunday attack.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was among those who sent her best wishes to Lewis after the announcement of his illness.

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“We are all praying for you following this diagnosis. John, know that generations of Americans have you in their thoughts & prayers as you face this fight.” She said in a statement. “We are all praying that you are comfortable. We know that you will be well.”

The Associated Press contributed to this article.