Civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, 76, has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Pictured in June 2017
Civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, 76, has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
Jackson made the announcement in a letter released on Friday and said he first noticed physical changes about three years ago. The disease also affected his father.
Parkinson’s is an incurable neurological disorder that can cause tremors, stiffness and difficulty balancing, walking and coordinating movement.
‘My family and I began to notice changes about three years ago,’ Jackson wrote in a statement. ‘After a battery of tests, my physicians identified the issue as Parkinson’s disease, a disease that bested my father.’
‘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,’ Jackson said.
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He plans to focus on physical therapy, hoping to slow down the disease. Pictured in June 2016
The disease also affected his father, Jackson revealed in his open letter. Pictured left in 1988 during his presidential campaign and right posing for a portrait in 1984
ONE MILLION PEOPLE SUFFER FROM PARKINSON’S IN THE U.S.
It causes muscle stiffness, slowness of movement, tremors, sleep disturbance, chronic fatigue, an impaired quality of life and can lead to severe disability.
It is a progressive neurological condition that destroys cells in the part of the brain that controls movement.
Sufferers are known to have diminished supplies of dopamine because nerve cells that make it have died.
There is currently no cure and no way of stopping the progression of the disease, but the new findings offer hope.
‘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 continued.
He now plans to focus on physical therapy, hoping to slow down the disease.
Jackson was diagnosed with the disease in 2015, according to Northwestern Medicine. He has been treated as outpatient in the years since, the hospital said.
He was born in Greenville, South Carolina and was a two-time Democratic presidential candidate.
He was arrested in 1960 when he was just a college student for advocating for the right to use a public library in his hometown.
Jackson participated in civil rights demonstrations with Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
In 1965 he marched from Selma to Montgomery with King and James Bevel.
Rev. Jesse Jackson (left) and Dr. Martin Luther King (right) are seen in Chicago on August 19, 1966. Jackson frequently participated in civil rights demonstrations with King
Jackson pictured at a pre-Democratic convention party greeting Coretta Scott King in 1988 (left). Pictured right with United Farm Workers President Cesar Chavez joined in a support walk in June 1988
READ JESSE JACKSON’S FULL STATEMENT
Dear Friends and Supporters,
On July 17, 1960, I was arrested, along with seven other college students, for advocating for the right to use a public library in my hometown of Greenville, S.C. I remember it like it was yesterday, for that day changed my life forever. From that experience, I lost my fear of being jailed for a righteous cause. I went on to meet Dr. King and dedicate my heart and soul to the fight for justice, equality, and equal access. In the tradition of the Apostle Paul, I have offered myself – my mind, body and soul – as a living sacrifice.
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. 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. 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.
I am far from alone. God continues to give me new opportunities to serve. This diagnosis is personal but it is more than that. It is an opportunity for me to use my voice to help in finding a cure for a disease that afflicts 7 to 10 million worldwide. Some 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s every year.
I will continue to try to instill hope in the hopeless, expand our democracy to the disenfranchised and free innocent prisoners around the world. I’m also spending some time working on my memoir so I can share with others the lessons I have learned in my life of public service. I steadfastly affirm that I would rather wear out than rust out.
I want to thank my family and friends who continue to care for me and support me. 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!
Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.
King became impressed with Jackson’s leadership abilities and gave him a role in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
When Jackson returned from Selma, he was charged with establishing an office for the SCLC in Chicago.
Jackson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bill Clinton in 2000, the nation’s highest honor bestowed on civilians.
He has remained an activist and has most recently been vocal in the national debate about race and police brutality.
Jackson’s son, Jesse Jackson Jr., is a former US congressman who represented Illinois’ 2nd District.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanual has issued a statement regarding Jackson’s diagnosis.
‘First, my thoughts and prayers are with the family,’ Emanuel said Friday, ‘but I would note while Parkinson’s may be a physical condition, it will never ever break Rev. Jackson’s spiritual commitment to justice and his ability to help continue to be a voice for those whose voices are not heard.’
‘I am far from alone,’ Jackson said in his statement.
‘I want to thank my family and friends who continue to care for me and support me,’ he concluded. ‘I will need your prayers and graceful understanding as I undertake this new challenge.’
Jackson poses with his family during his 1984 presidential campaign in Chicago
Businessman Donald Trump (second from left) and Reverend Jackson (right) are pictured at a boxing match in Atlantic City in January 1988
Parkinson’s disease has been increasing in frequency in recent years. Scientists have warned it is now the world’s fastest growing neurological disorder – ahead of dementia – and shows no signs of slowing.
There are now about 6.9 million Parkinson’s patients worldwide and, by 2040, the number will grow to 14.2 million as the population ages.
According to the latest statistics, the rate of growth of Parkinson’s will outpace Alzheimer’s – and they say the estimates are likely conservative due to under-reporting, misdiagnosis and increasing life expectancy.