Civil rights icon and former presidential candidate, Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. announced on Nov. 17 that he has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He is 76.
A letter from Northwestern Medicine, included with Jackson’s statement, says Jackson was diagnosed in 2015.
In a statement released through his Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Jackson said he and his family began noticing changes in his health 3 years ago.
“For a while, I resisted interrupting my work to visit a doctor. But as my daily physical struggles intensified I could no longer ignore the symptoms, so I acquiesced.
“After a battery of tests, my physicians identified the issue as Parkinson’s disease, a disease that bested my father.
“Recognition of the effects of this disease on me has been painful, and I have been slow to grasp the gravity of it. For me, a Parkinson’s diagnosis is not a stop sign but rather a signal that I must make lifestyle changes and dedicate myself to physical therapy in hopes of slowing the disease’s progression.”
Jackson was born in Greenville, SC, and was a confidante and associate of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. He ran for president as a Democrat in 1984 and in 1988.
President Bill Clinton awarded Jackson the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, in 2000.
Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder that mainly affects nerve cells in a part of the brain that controls motor function and movement.
The cause is unknown and there is no cure, according to WebMD. While Parkinson’s is not fatal, complications from the disease can be serious. The CDC ranks complications from Parkinson’s as the 14th-leading cause of death in the U.S. With treatment, including surgery and medication, patients are often able to manage symptoms well for many years.
“I want to thank my family and friends who continue to care for me and support me,” Jackson wrote. “I will need your prayers and graceful understanding as I undertake this new challenge. As we continue in the struggle for human rights, remember that God will see us through, even in our midnight moments. KEEP HOPE ALIVE!”