OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
A Democratic lawmaker has announced some heartbreaking news that will force her to retire early from Congress.
In a statement on Monday, Rep. Jennifer Wexton of Virginia said she won’t be seeking re-election next year after being diagnosed with progressive supranuclear palsy, which is terminal. The 55-year-old told the Washington Post: “It’s not OK. It’s not OK at all … I’m going to die, which isn’t fair.”
Over the summer, doctors believed she was developing Parkinson’s disease, but the diagnosis changed after they got more medical information. Wexton said at one point, she asked her doctor, “Can I still run for reelection?” to which he responded, “Why would you want to?”
In a text message to the Post, Wexton wrote, “But what became clear was that not only would I not be able to handle the rigors of campaigning in a tough district (hours of daily call time! Campaign rallies! Trackers and attack ads!) even if I could it may have literally killed me. And my life is definitely too short for that!”
During her Post interview, she talked about how the disease has impacted her already.
“It’s hard for me to speak in a way that people can understand and that they want to listen to … I hate the way I sound now. I always have to think about slowing down and enunciating,” the congresswoman noted.
“People I know know I’ve struggled for a long time. I’ll be able to relax and enjoy the time I have left and the time I have left in Congress,” she said.
We’re all heartbroken with Jennifer about the news of her PSP, but I know that she’ll make the most out of every minute she has left in Congress. She’s a fighter for Virginia and for the American people. Sending love, strength and gratitude.https://t.co/NRHfId2C6a
— Rep. Jamie Raskin (@RepRaskin) September 18, 2023
She posted her statement about her condition and her future on the X platform.
“When I shared with the world my diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease a few months ago, I knew that the road ahead would have its challenges, and I’ve worked hard to navigate those challenges through consistent treatments and therapies,” she wrote. “But I wasn’t making the progress to manage my symptoms that I had hoped, and I noticed the women in my Parkinson’s support group weren’t having the same experience that I was.
“I sought out additional medical opinions and testing, and my doctors modified my diagnosis to Progressive Supra-nuclear Palsy – a kind of ‘Parkinson’s on steroids,'” she added.
“I’ve always believed that honesty is the most important value in public service, so I want to be honest with you now – this new diagnosis is a tough one. There is no ‘getting better’ with PSP. I’ll continue treatment options to manage my symptoms, but they don’t work as well with my condition as they do for Parkinson’s,” she continued.
“I’m heartbroken to have to give up something I have loved after so many years of serving my community. But taking into consideration the prognosis for my health over the coming years, I have made the decision not to seek reelection once my term is complete and instead spend my valued time with Andrew, our boys, and my friends and loved ones,” the Virginia Democrat noted further.
“When I made the decision to run for Congress, this was clearly not the way I anticipated it coming to a close — but then again, pretty much nothing about my time serving here has quite been typical or as expected,” she added.
Progressive supranuclear palsy is “a rare neurological disorder that affects body movements, walking and balance, and eye movements,” according to the National Institutes of Health.
“The disease usually worsens rapidly and most people with PSP develop severe disability within three to five years of symptom onset. PSP can lead to serious complications such as pneumonia, choking, or head injuries from falls,” the NIH said.
The country’s health agency also said there is no treatment nor cure for the disease.