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‘I’m Going to Die’: Dem Congresswoman Announces Retirement After Being Diagnosed with Rare Disorder

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Rep. Jennifer Wexton of Virginia, a Democrat, announced on Monday that she will not seek re-election after being diagnosed with a rare, incurable neurological disorder.

Before it was revealed that she has progressive supranuclear palsy, she spoke with The Washington Post.

During the interview, Wexton told a companion, “It’s OK.”

Then she offered a different comment. “It’s not OK. It’s not OK at all … I’m going to die, which isn’t fair,” the 55-year-old congresswoman said.

She stated that she asked her doctor if she could still run for re-election this summer after a diagnosis refuted earlier suspicions that she had Parkinson’s disease.

Wexton recalled that his response was “Why would you want to?”

In a text message to the Post, she described a shift in her thinking.

“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!” Wexton wrote.

During the interview, she discussed the impact the disease has had on her.

“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 said.

“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.

Wexton announced her decision in a post on X.

“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.’

“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.

“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.

“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.”

According to the National Institutes of Health, progressive supranuclear palsy is “a rare neurological disorder that affects body movements, walking and balance, and eye movements.”

“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 agency noted that the disease has no treatment or cure.

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