Democratic Representative Jennifer Wexton of Virginia has made the poignant announcement that she will not seek re-election due to her diagnosis of a rare and incurable neurological disorder.
Before revealing that she had progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), Wexton shared her thoughts with The Washington Post. She initially comforted a friend, saying, “It’s OK,” but later expressed the harsh reality of her condition, stating, “It’s not OK. It’s not OK at all… I’m going to die, which isn’t fair,” lamented the 55-year-old congresswoman, The Washington Post.
Wexton disclosed that her diagnosis, which came this summer and corrected previous assumptions of Parkinson’s disease, led her to inquire with her doctor about the possibility of running for re-election. However, it became clear that not only would she be unable to handle the demands of campaigning in a challenging district, but it could also pose a significant risk to her health. She wrote, “Even if I could, it may have literally killed me. And my life is definitely too short for that!”
During the interview, she candidly discussed how the disease has affected her ability to communicate effectively, stating, “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.”
Wexton acknowledged the support she has received from those who know of her struggles over the years and expressed her intention to relax and cherish the time she has left both in Congress and in life.
She officially announced her decision in a statement, explaining her journey from a Parkinson’s diagnosis to the reevaluation of her condition as PSP, often described as “Parkinson’s on steroids.” She emphasized that there is no improvement expected with PSP and that her treatment options are less effective than those for Parkinson’s.
Heartbroken but determined to prioritize her health, she made the difficult decision not to seek re-election after her current term, choosing instead to spend her precious time with her family and loved ones.
Jennifer Wexton’s path to Congress has been anything but typical or expected, and her latest health challenge is no exception. According to the National Institutes of Health, PSP is a rare neurological disorder that profoundly affects body movements, balance, walking, and eye movements. The disease typically progresses rapidly, leading to severe disability within a few years of symptom onset, and can result in serious complications such as pneumonia, choking, or falls causing head injuries.