WASHINGTON - Just months after Democratic Rep. Jennifer Wexton of Virginia vowed to continue her work in Congress after being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, the congresswoman revealed she would not seek reelection after doctors modified her diagnosis to progressive supranuclear palsy.
Wexton, 55, is serving her third term in Congress. She said she will serve the remainder of her term.
Progressive supranuclear palsy is a brain disorder that can cause serious problems with walking, balance, and eye movements. It is one of a family of neurological conditions called atypical parkinsonism and belongs to the category of frontotemporal disorders. PSP is often misdiagnosed as Parkinson's disease, Wexton said.
After her initial diagnosis in April, Wexton said the illness had primarily affected her speech and how her mouth moves. She said she spoke more quickly, and the disease has affected how she walks and keeps her balance.
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
Here is her statement announcing her modified diagnosis and retirement plans:
"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. 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. I will forever cherish the people from our communities and all around the country I've come to know, the challenges we've faced together, and the ways both big and small that my team and I have made a difference in the lives of our neighbors. While my time in Congress will soon come to a close, I'm just as confident and committed as ever to keep up the work that got me into this fight in the first place for my remaining time in office – to help build the future we want for our children. I am truly humbled by the trust Virginians have placed in me, and I look forward to continuing to serve the people of our district."