Opposition Senator Esteban Bullrich announced Wednesday that he had been diagnosed with the neurodegenerative neuromuscular disease known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, otherwise known as ALS.
In a statement released by Senate authorities, the 51-year-old former education minister said that medical studies had determined that he was suffering from ALS, one of several types of motor neurone diseases that causes progressive muscle paralysis.
"It is difficult to convey painful news, but sharing it is a relief," the senator for Buenos Aires Province said in a post on Twitter.
“After several months consulting doctors and doing all the necessary studies, we came up with a definitive diagnosis about my condition. I have Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a disease that causes muscle paralysis and that is what affects my speech,” he added.
Bullrich, who also served as education minister for the Buenos Aires City government, has experienced difficulties when speaking over the past year. In a speech to the Senate a month ago, he asked his peers for patience, explaining to them that he had to "learn to speak again.”
"ALS is complex, but taking care of myself and respecting the treatment can alleviate its symptoms. As a Catholic, I believe that God never gives us tests that we cannot overcome. He makes all things new. I trust Him,” said the politician on Wednesday in his statement.
Bullrich said the diagnosis would not stop him from carrying on with his work, vowing to do “more things” and to do them “better.” He would not let the disease “define” him, he added.
"I am not going to move from where I am. This situation does not prevent me from continuing with my duties,” he said. “I have a commitment to the residents of Buenos Aires Province and with Argentines that is not modified by this diagnosis. There is much to do to build the Argentina that we want for us and for our children. I am part of something much bigger than me and my vocation of service is intact.”
Politicians from across the political spectrum posted statements of admiration and support for Bullrich, with many paying tribute to his way of dealing with the news.
Senate chief and Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner – who faced Bullrich in the 2017 midterms in Buenos Aires Province – said the upper house would "put everything necessary" at the senator’s disposal to ensure he could continue with his work.
"I have just read the letter published by National Senator Esteban Bullrich. I am sure [that] his deep and sincere faith in God will give him the necessary strength to face this difficult situation," she said in a post on Twitter.
Buenos Aires City Deputy Mayor Diego Santilli praised Bullrich's "courage, strength and perseverance," while former president Mauricio Macri described his former minister as “a tireless fighter.”
ALS is a fatal neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. People afflicted lose their ability to walk, talk, eat and, eventually, breathe. There is no cure.
It became well known in the United States in the 20th century when in 1939 it affected baseball player Lou Gehrig and later worldwide following the 1963 diagnosis of cosmologist Stephen Hawking. The disease commonly appears in people after the age of 60.
Most individuals diagnosed with the disease are told they will likely have just a few years to live, though Hawking lived with ALS throughout his illustrious career spanning more than five decades.