Rev. Jesse Jackson announced that he has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
“Throughout my career of service, God has kept me in the embrace of his loving arms, and protected me and my family from dangers, seen and unseen,” the civil rights activist said in a statement on Twitter on Friday, November 17. “Now in the latter years of my life, at 76 years old, I find it increasingly difficult to perform routine tasks, and getting around is more of a challenge. My family and I began to notice changes about three years ago.”
Jackson said he initially resisted seeing a doctor, but ultimately gave in once he could no longer ignore his symptoms. “After a battery of tests, my physicians identified the issue as Parkinson’s disease, a disease that bested my father,” he announced.
“Recognition of the effects of this disease on me has been painful, and I have been slow to grasp the gravity of it,” he continued. “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.”
The neurological disorder has no known cure and is commonly associated with tremors, stiffness and difficulty with walking and balancing. Northwestern Medicine hospital in Chicago said in a follow-up statement that Jackson was diagnosed in 2015 and has since been treated as an outpatient.
“I want to thank my family and friends who continue to care for me and support me,” the South Carolina native concluded his statement. “I will need your prayers and graceful understanding as I undertake this new challenge.”
Jackson participated in civil rights demonstrations with the late Martin Luther King Jr. and ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984 and 1988. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bill Clinton in 2000 for successfully negotiating the release of three U.S. soldiers who were held in Yugoslavia.