The Rev. Jessie Jackson revealed on Friday that he has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
The 76-year-old civil rights leader said he had found it difficult to perform routine tasks and after a battery of tests was diagnosed by his physicians with Parkinson’s, a disease that ailed his father.
“My family and I began to notice changes about three years ago. For a while, I resisted interrupting my work to visit a doctor. But as my daily physical struggles intensified I could no longer ignore the symptoms, so I acquiesced,” he said in a statement.
Northwestern Medicine also released a statement saying Jackson was diagnosed with the disease in 2015 and that they had been treating him in an outpatient setting. Northwestern described Parkinson’s as a “progressive degenerative disorder that results from loss of cells in various parts of the brain that control movement.”
Jackson, who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., is the founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, a social justice organization headquartered on Chicago’s South Side. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton in 2000 after he unsuccessfully ran for President in 1984 and 1988.
Jackson said in his statement that grappling with the disease has been difficult.
“Recognition of the effects of this disease on me has been painful, and I have been slow to grasp the gravity of it. For me, a Parkinson’s diagnosis is not a stop sign but rather a signal that I must make lifestyle changes and dedicate myself to physical therapy in hopes of slowing the disease’s progression.”
A spokesman said Jackson declined to comment further.