Democratic U.S. Congresswoman from Virginia Jennifer Wexton, 55, announced Monday that she will not seek reelection after being diagnosed with a progressive form of Parkinson’s disease.
Representative Wexton currently represents Virginia’s 10th Congressional District, which is a competitive area encompassing very wealthy suburban Washington, DC communities such as Loudon County and Fairfax County.
Monday’s announcement follows Wexton’s revelation in April that she had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease but planned to continue serving in Congress.
Now that she has an updated diagnosis and a more severe prognosis, she is stepping down.
Progressive supranuclear palsy is a form of “Parkinson on steroids,” Wexton described in his statement about the devastating diagnosis.
Democratic Rep. Jennifer Wexton Won’t Run for Election After Discovering New Diagnosis of ‘Parkinson’s on Steroids’
The congresswoman released a statement Monday describing her diagnosis and her decision to step down from the House after serving her term until the end of 2024.
“I want to be honest with you now: This new diagnosis is difficult,” Wexton said in his statement, posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. “There is no “improvement” with the PSP. I will continue treatment options to manage my symptoms, but they are not working as well.
Speaking with the Washington Post, Wexton said, “People I know know I struggled for a long time. I will be able to relax and enjoy the time I have left and the time I have left in Congress.
When speaking to longtime confidante and chief of staff Abigail Carter, Wexton assured her that she wanted to tell her story on her terms.
‘I’m not fine. It’s not right at all,” she said of the diagnosis. “I’m going to die, which is not right.”
Wexton asked his doctor, according to the report, “Can I still run for re-election?” as they looked at the brain scan.
‘Why would you want to?’ replied the doctor.
Wexton will serve her term until 2024, but noted in her statement: “I am heartbroken to have to give up something I have loved after so many years of serving my community,” she said. declared.
The Virginia congresswoman was seeking more answers from her doctors after realizing she wasn’t responding well to treatment and discovering she was having different experiences than the women in her Parkinson’s support group.
Taking office in 2019, Wexton won the House midterm elections against Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock with 56% of the vote. In 2022, she won her second re-election with 53% of the vote.
An open seat in Virginia 10 could make for a competitive race in a district that became slightly more conservative in the latest redistricting, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project.
With a closely divided Congress, the 2024 race could have implications for party control.
Pictured: Wexton, as a congressional candidate, shares donuts with voters alongside then-Senate candidate Tim Kaine (center) and former President Barack Obama (left).
Progressive supranuclear palsy, or PSP, is a disorder belonging to a family of neurological diseases called atypical parkinsonism. This affects body movements, walking and balance.
People diagnosed with PSP often die from the disease six to nine years after their diagnosis, with symptoms worsening over time.
The symptoms of PSP can resemble those of Parkinson’s disease and the disease can initially be misdiagnosed, which happened in Ms. Wexton’s case.
However, it is different from Parkinson’s disease in that it usually appears later in a person’s life, in their mid to late 60s, and worsens quickly. People with PSP develop severe disability three to five years after symptoms appear.
Wexton is 55 years old – so she was diagnosed and experienced symptoms a little earlier than usual.
Speech and swallowing problems are much more common and severe in PSP patients than in those with Parkinson’s disease. However, it is rare for PSP patients to develop tremors, a major characteristic sign of Parkinson’s disease.
Symptoms of PSP may include difficulty controlling the eyes and eyelids, loss of balance, slurred speech, difficulty walking or swallowing, changes in judgment, forgetfulness, personality changes and difficulty finding words.
This disease can lead to serious complications such as pneumonia, choking, or head injuries from falls. Aspiration pneumonia, when food or liquids are inhaled into the airways or lungs instead of being swallowed, is the most common cause of death in people with PSP.
People with this condition are also at higher risk of falls and head injuries that can lead to death.
Some treatments that may be successful in managing the symptoms of patients with Parkinson’s disease often fail in PSP patients.
There is currently no cure for this disease and there is no treatment to reverse or stop PSP.