WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic Rep. Jennifer Wexton of Virginia announced Tuesday she has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease but vowed to continue her work in Congress, saying, “I’m not going to let Parkinson’s stop me from being me.”
Wexton, 54, serving her third term from a competitive district in Northern Virginia suburbs near Washington, revealed the diagnosis on World Parkinson’s Day. She said in a video that she hopes to be a voice for those coping with the disease and to fight in Congress to devote greater resources toward the search for a cure.
The illness has primarily affected her speech and how her mouth moves, Wexton said. She speaks more quickly now, and the disease has affected how she walks and keeps her balance.
“What Parkinson’s is not is an untreatable disease, a cognitive impairment, or a death sentence. So please, you are welcome to empathize, but don’t feel sorry for me,” Wexton said.
Wexton, a former state senator and prosecutor, said she feels good and is focused on legislating, meeting constituents and visiting with business and school officials — “all just like normal.”
“I hope to keep serving you for many years to come,” Wexton said.
Parkinson’s disease is a brain disorder that causes unintended or uncontrollable movements, such as shaking, stiffness and difficulty with balance and coordination. The symptoms and rate of progression differ among individuals. Early symptoms of this disease are subtle and occur gradually, according to the National Institute on Aging.
“The treatment process is one that involves time and commitment, so you’re going to see me have good days and some days that are not so good,” Wexton said. “But I want you to know this: my head and my heart are 100% committed to serving the people of Virginia, and especially my constituents in the 10th congressional district.”