Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, appointed by President Ronald Regan in 1981, has announced that she received the prognosis of probable Alzheimer’s disease some time ago.

O’Connor, now 88,  served on the United States Supreme Court from 1981 to 2006.

In a lengthy letter, released on Tuesday morning, addressed to “friends and fellow Americans”, Justice O’Connor explained that she has received the diagnosis “some time ago” that her condition is “probably Alzheimer’s disease”.

She wrote “As this condition has progressed, I am no longer able to participate in public life.

“Since many people have asked about my current status and activities, I want to be open about these changes, and while I am still able, share some personal thoughts.”

BREAKING: Sandra Day O’Connor, the first female Justice of the United States Supreme Court, has been diagnosed with the “the beginning stages of dementia,” according to a statement released by her family. Notably, her husband battled Alzheimer’s disease. pic.twitter.com/L3jzbJlf5i

— David Begnaud (@DavidBegnaud) October 23, 2018

In her letter, the former Judge urged Americans to actively take part in the communities. She gave special emphasis to educating the youth in the United States on civic engagement.

In 2010, O’Connor founded the non-profit organization iCivics. She wrote that her diagnosis now prevents her from leading the cause and she hopes that new leaders will continue to carry on her message.

O’Connor will stay in Phoenix with her friends and family as she battles the disease.

She wrote “While the final chapter of my life with dementia may be trying, nothing has diminished my gratitude and deep appreciation for the countless blessings in my life. How fortunate I feel to be an American and to have been presented with the remarkable opportunities available to the citizens of our country.”

BREAKING: Retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor announces she has been diagnosed with the "beginning stages of dementia, probably Alzheimer's disease" https://t.co/bAOBlCG920 pic.twitter.com/m7eRXUM1SB

— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) October 23, 2018

On Monday the Associated Press broke the news that the former justice would be taking a step back from public life.

Her son Jay said “When she hit about 86 years old she decided that it was time to slow things down, that she’d accomplished most of what she set out to do in her post-retirement years, that she was getting older physically and her memory was starting to be more challenging, so the time came to dial back her public life,” son Jay O’Connor told the outlet.

O’Connor was born in El Paso, Texas, in 1930. At the age of 16, she was admitted to Stanford University, where she graduated in 1950 with a degree in Economics. In 1952, Justice O'Connor graduated from Stanford Law School, third in her class and two places behind bench-mate Judge William Rehnquist.

The Irish American judge was known for promoting women's interests in several cases, including the ruling Roe v Wade, in a second case that sought to overturn it.

"While the final chapter of my life with dementia may be trying, nothing has diminished my gratitude and deep
appreciation for the countless blessings in my life," Sandra Day O'Connor writes. https://t.co/8vQEUQ2A7W pic.twitter.com/0Mic1un0bG

— ABC News (@ABC) October 23, 2018

In 2006 stepped down from the Supreme Court to care for her husband who also suffered from Alzheimer’s. Her husband, John, passed away in 2009.

Chief Justice John Robert released a statement saying how “saddened” he was to learn that O’Connor “faces the challenge of dementia". He called Justice O’Connor a "towering figure in the history of the United States" breaking down barriers for women.

He added, "No illness can take away the inspiration she provides for those who will follow the many paths she has blazed.”

Here’s short biography on Justice Sandra Day O’Connor:

Read more: Irish scientists discover nutrients that slow Alzheimer’s Disease

US Supreme Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.University of Mount Union Follow / Flickr