Elijah Cummings Illness: How Did His Health Problems Affect His Life and Work?

Elijah Cummings, a congressman from Baltimore who fought for civil rights, died on October 17, 2019, when he was 68 years old. He had been sick for a long time because of his health problems. He had a rare kind of cancer called thymic carcinoma since 1994 and had many surgeries in the last two years of his life.

Even though he was going through a lot of physical problems, Cummings kept working hard to make things better for everyone. He cared a lot about justice, equality, and democracy until he passed away.

What Was Elijah Cummings’ Illness?

Elijah Cummings, the esteemed longtime Baltimore congressman and civil rights advocate, died on October 17, 2019, at the age of 68. His office said he passed away from “complications concerning longstanding health challenges.”

Cummings had been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called thymic carcinoma in 1994 while serving as a member of the Maryland House of Delegates. Thymic carcinoma is a type of cancer that starts in the thymus, a small organ in the chest that is part of the immune system. It is very aggressive and often spreads to other parts of the body.

It was revealed in November 2019 that Cummings had lived with the cancer for 25 years, though it was not stated as the cause of death. He had undergone several surgeries and treatments over the years, including an aortic valve replacement in 2017 and a knee infection in 2018.

Maya Rockeymoore, chairwoman of the Maryland Democratic Party and Cummings’ wife, said in a statement:He worked until his last breath because he believed our democracy was the highest and best expression of our collective humanity… I loved him deeply and will miss him dearly.”

What is Thymic Carcinoma?

Thymic carcinoma is a type of cancer that originates from the thymus gland, a small organ located behind the sternum that produces immune cells. Thymic carcinoma is very rare, accounting for only about 0.2% of all cancers in the United States. It is also very aggressive, often spreading to other parts of the body, such as the lungs, bones, or brain.

The symptoms of thymic carcinoma may include chest pain, coughing, difficulty breathing, hoarseness, weight loss, or swelling in the face or neck. The diagnosis of thymic carcinoma is usually made by a biopsy of the tumor tissue. The treatment options for thymic carcinoma may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or targeted therapy.

The prognosis of thymic carcinoma depends on several factors, such as the stage of the disease, the size and location of the tumor, the response to treatment, and the overall health of the patient. The survival rate for thymic carcinoma is generally low, with a median survival time of about 2.5 years after diagnosis.

Cummings was diagnosed with thymic carcinoma in 1994 while serving as a member of the Maryland House of Delegates. He had lived with the cancer for 25 years, though it was not stated as the cause of death.

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How Did Cummings’ Health Problems Affect His Life and Work?

Cummings also suffered from heart and knee problems that required multiple surgeries in the last two years of his life. In May 2017, he underwent a minimally invasive heart valve replacement procedure to treat aortic stenosis, a condition that causes narrowing of the aortic valve and reduces blood flow to the body.

He was hospitalized for several days after developing an infection following the surgery. In July 2017, he had another surgery to repair his right knee, which had been damaged by arthritis and an infection. He was hospitalized again for several weeks after developing a blood clot in his leg.

He later said that he had been in “constant pain” for more than six months due to his knee condition. Cummings’ health problems affected his mobility and appearance. He used a wheelchair and a walker to get around, and he lost significant weight due to his illness.

He also wore a special boot on his right foot to protect his wound from infection. Despite his physical limitations, Cummings continued to work tirelessly for his constituents and his country.

He returned to Capitol Hill in September 2017 after his heart surgery and resumed his duties as the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee. He also traveled to Puerto Rico in October 2017 to assess the damage caused by Hurricane Maria and advocate for more federal aid for the island.

What Was Cummings’ Role and Legacy in American Politics?

Elijah Cummings was widely respected as a leader and a statesman in American politics. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives for Maryland’s 7th congressional district from 1996 until his death in 2019. He was also the chair of the House Oversight Committee from January 2019 until his death.

As a congressman, Cummings championed many causes that reflected his values and vision for a better society. He was an advocate for cutting prescription drug prices, fighting addiction, strengthening gun control, reforming the criminal justice system, protecting voting rights, improving education, and promoting environmental justice.

He was also a vocal critic of President Donald Trump’s policies and actions, especially on immigration, health care, and foreign affairs. As the chair of the House Oversight Committee, Cummings played a key role in overseeing the Trump administration and conducting investigations into various issues, such as security clearances, hush-money payments, census citizenship questions, and whistleblower complaints.

He was also one of the leaders of the impeachment inquiry into President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. Cummings was known for his eloquence and integrity in his speeches and statements. He often invoked his personal experiences and his faith to inspire and challenge others.

He also sought to build bridges and find common ground with his colleagues across the aisle. He was friends with many Republicans, such as former Representative Trey Gowdy and current Representative Mark Meadows.

Cummings was honored and praised by many people from different backgrounds and walks of life after his death. He was described as a “giant of the House,” a “resounding civil rights icon,” a “moral voice of our nation,” and a “beloved leader.” He received tributes from former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, civil rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton, and many others.

Cummings was the first African American lawmaker to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol, a rare honor bestowed upon only a few Americans in history. He was also honored with a funeral service at the New Psalmist Baptist Church in Baltimore, where he worshipped for nearly four decades.

He was eulogized by former Presidents Obama and Clinton, among others. Cummings is survived by his wife, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, the chairwoman of the Maryland Democratic Party, and his three children from a previous marriage.


Elijah Cummings was a remarkable man who overcame many obstacles and adversities in his life. He rose from humble beginnings to become one of the most influential and respected figures in American politics.

He faced his health challenges with courage and dignity, never letting them stop him from fulfilling his mission and purpose. He left behind a legacy of service, justice, and democracy that will inspire generations to come.


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