Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) announced on Tuesday that she has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
Wexton, 54, disclosed her diagnosis in a video posted on Twitter.
“If there’s one thing that Democrats and Republicans can agree on, it’s that Parkinson’s disease sucks. Today, on World Parkinson’s Day, I’m here to tell you that I’ve come to learn this firsthand. And that’s because I’ve learned that I, too, have Parkinson’s, or what some people call PD for short,” Wexton said.
The congresswoman said the disease “has primarily affected” her speech, how her mouth moves and how she walks and keeps her balance.
“You may notice I speak more quickly now,” she said.
Wexton noted, however, that she is “doing well” and has a “positive attitude.” She said her treatment process “involves time and commitment, so you’re going to see me have good days and some days that are not so good.”
“But I want you to know this: my head and my heart are 100 percent committed to serving the people of Virginia, and especially my constituents in the 10th Congressional District,” she added.
The congresswoman has represented Virginia’s 10th Congressional District since 2019.
Roughly 500,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, though the condition goes undiagnosed in many people, leading some experts to believe the number is higher. It is the second-most common neurodegenerative disorder in the U.S., behind Alzheimer’s disease.
Wexton on Tuesday urged people not to “sorry for me.”
“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,” she said. “I’m working with my doctor on a treatment plan that addresses my symptoms. And I’ve been feeling good and staying strong. I’ve been focused on legislation, voting in Congress, traveling around my district, hosting constituent service events, and visiting with local businesses and schools – all just like normal.”
“I’m not going to let Parkinson’s stop me from being me,” she continued. “I am confident that as I work with my doctor to get the treatment I need, I can continue being a working mom and an active member of our community.”
She added, “I hope to keep serving you for many years to come.”
Former Rep. José Serrano (D-N.Y.) announced in March 2019 that he was retiring from Congress following a Parkinson’s diagnosis. He made the two announcements simultaneously.