LEESBURG, Va. - Jennifer Wexton, the Virginia Congresswoman who won her reelection bid to the U.S. House in the state's 10th Congressional District last year, announced that she has been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.
"If there's one thing that Democrats and Republicans can agree on, it's that Parkinson's Disease sucks," Wexton said in a statement released Tuesday. "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 was first elected in 2018 by unseating Republican U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock. She won re-election in 2020 by defeating Marine Corps veteran Aliscia Andrews. Last October she defeated Republican congressional candidate Hung Cao. She began her third term in January.
"Before I say anything else, let me share this – I'm doing well. I've got a positive attitude, and I've got the strong support of so many family, friends, and loved ones," she said.
Congress woman elect Jennifer Wexton speaks to supporters after winning the Virginia-10 district congressional election, beating incumbent Barbera Comstock (R-VA), at her election watch party in Dulles, Virginia on November 6, 2018. (Photo by ANDREW
The National Institutes of Health defines Parkinson's disease as a brain disorder that causes unintended or uncontrollable movements, such as shaking, stiffness, and difficulty with balance and coordination.
Symptoms usually begin gradually and worsen over time. As the disease progresses, people may have difficulty walking and talking. They may also have mental and behavioral changes, sleep problems, depression, memory difficulties, and fatigue.
While there is no cure for Parkinson's disease, medicines, surgical treatment, and other therapies can often relieve some symptoms, according to the NIH.
Approximately 500,000 Americans have been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease but experts say the number is likely much higher. Some experts estimate as many as one million Americans have the disease.
Read Jennifer Wexton's FULL STATEMENT announcing her Parkinson's disease diagnosis:
"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.
"Before I say anything else, let me share this – I'm doing well. I've got a positive attitude, and I've got the strong support of so many family, friends, and loved ones. A diagnosis of PD is often misunderstood, so I'd like to tell you what it actually is. PD is a movement disorder. It starts in the brain, and affects people's bodies in different ways. Over the past few months, it has primarily affected my speech and how my mouth moves. You may notice I speak more quickly now. It also has affected how I walk and keep my 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. 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. 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. I'm doing what I love, and what I've spent more than two decades of my life doing – helping others through public service – as a prosecutor, a judge, a state senator and now as your representative in Congress. And I hope to keep serving you for many years to come.
"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. 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.
"I'm generally a private person when it comes to personal matters, but with my Parkinson's diagnosis, I join the ranks of over eight million people who have Parkinson's today. Nearly 90,000 Americans are diagnosed every year. Among those are public figures like Michael J. Fox, Attorney General Janet Reno, and Muhammad Ali. Like them, I, too, am a fighter. And I want to use my platform to be a voice for those struggling with Parkinson's, and fight to help bring greater resources to the search for a cure.
"I chose to come forward today, on World Parkinson's Day, because I want to bring about as much good from this diagnosis as I can, and I look forward to doing just that here in Congress. Thank you all, and I look forward to seeing you soon. Take care."