Former LA Gov. Kathleen Blanco: Seeking prayers in new 'fight fo - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Former LA Gov. Kathleen Blanco: Seeking prayers in new 'fight for my own life' against cancer


Former Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco is asking for prayers as she battles a melanoma in her liver.

In a letter published Sunday in various newspapers across the state, Blanco wrote, "I am in a fight for my own life, one that will be difficult to win."  There is so far no known cure for the type of cancer she has, she wrote.

"I would deeply appreciate if you should see fit, that you offer prayers on behalf of myself, as well as all others fighting to survive life-threatening illnesses," she wrote.

Blanco was Louisiana's first and only female governor, serving from 2004 to 2008. This is not her first cancer fight. In 2011, she was diagnosed with ocular melanoma, a cancer of the eye. She received radiation treatment and her vision was spared.

"I knew from the start of my cancer journey this could happen, but with each passing year, I hoped this cup would pass me by. It did not," she wrote.

In a statement released Sunday morning, current Gov. John Bel Edwards called for people to join him in praying for Blanco and her family. "She is a strong woman of incredible faith, a deep and abiding love of Louisiana and all its people," he said.

Other Louisiana leaders from across the political spectrum also weighed in.

"I would encourage our community during this Advent season to give Governor Blanco the gift of fervent, faithfilled [sic] prayers and encouragement as she fights the good fight with faith on this present journey," wrote East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome in a statement. Broome was a member of the state senate when Blanco was in the governor's mansion.

"Kathleen is a courageous fighter who selflessly served the people of La. We pray she finds comfort in her faith and family during the difficult days ahead," said Sen. John Kennedy in a tweet.

"Jennifer and I are keeping former Governor Kathleen Blanco in our prayers during her courageous battle," tweeted Congressman Steve Scalise.

Blanco's political career began in 1983, when she was elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives. In the years that followed, she served on the Public Service Commission before being elected lieutenant governor.

She entered the governor’s mansion in 2004. During her time in office, she got pay raises for teachers and invested more funding into higher education.

However, her term would quickly become defined by a set of back-to-back natural disasters: Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The state’s recovery efforts fell under scrutiny. The Road Home rebuilding program faced backlogs and delays.

Blanco returned to Congress multiple times asking for additional assistance. She publicly argued that the George W. Bush White House gave preferential treatment to Mississippi’s recovery efforts because their governor was a Republican.

Facing low approval ratings, she decided to not run for a second term. Bobby Jindal succeeded her in 2008.

LSU Professor Bob Mann, who served as Blanco's communication director, said he hopes public opinion of the former governor will improve over time.

“I think people are already reassessing her success as governor,” Mann said. “What I think that people will see in her is that she never stopped fighting for the state.”

Dr. Vince Cataldo with the Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center said once an ocular melanoma spreads to the liver or another organ, it brings with it an "extraordinary poor life expectancy."

“[It's] often resistant to any form of chemotherapy or other forms of target therapy or immunotherapy,” Cataldo said. “And that life expectancy on average is certainly less than one year, and is usually measured in the order of months.”

You can read Blanco’s full letter below:

To the citizens of Louisiana, my dearest family and friends, it is with a heart filled with gratitude that I write today to thank you for the abiding love and prayers you have generously bestowed upon me and my family throughout my entire life and especially during my 24 years of public service.

Without your prayers in 1997, when our son Ben lost his life, we could not have persevered. Thank you for sharing your own joys and sorrows, which brought clarity that we are never alone when our Creator asks us to carry special burdens.

I come to you once more to ask for your prayers and loving support.

In 2011, I was diagnosed with an ocular melanoma, a dangerous and rare cancer of the eye. With the help of talented doctors and medical professionals, my eye was treated with radiation, which successfully preserved my vision. The past six and a half years of my life have been busy, filled with blessings and love.

I now face a new challenge. I am in a fight for my own life, one that will be difficult to win, battling the melanoma that has invaded my liver. I knew from the start of my cancer journey this could happen, but with each passing year, I hoped this cup would pass me by. It did not.

I have begun a treatment program that hopefully, over time, will quell these cancer demons. No treatments have yet been identified to actually cure this type of melanoma, so a variety of treatments will likely be necessary over time. I would deeply appreciate, if you should see fit, that you offer prayers on behalf of myself, as well as all others fighting to survive life-threatening illnesses.

When you elected me to the Louisiana House of Representatives in 1984, I began to see Louisiana as a complex and fascinating kaleidoscope of special people with varied talents and needs. I learned about you, your goals and aspirations, and especially your needs. I began to understand more fully how a well-formed government should be designed to invest in individuals, in education, in basic health care and in other ways that make each of us strong, independent and able to be active contributors to this complex world.

Those early lessons led me from the Legislature to the Public Service Commission, the lieutenant governor’s office and, finally, to the governor’s office. All that was possible because you believed in me and guided me on that 24-year journey. I believed in you. I believed we could all be better than we were.

I always felt blessed by God. My life was rich with a mega-sized family, good parents, caring brothers and sisters, a fascinating husband, creative children whose spouses gave me 13 of the best grandchildren, and many talented friends and interesting acquaintances.

In my heart, I always understood God was preparing me for unknown challenges. And of course, those challenges came. The first great loss was the death of our son. Many years later, hurricanes Katrina and Rita challenged all of us. I was inspired by the hard work and dedication of the tens of thousands of people who stepped forward to walk hand in hand with those whose lives were endangered and abruptly interrupted. I thank you, Louisiana citizens and first-responders who carried those in need, including the young, old, ailing and dying, from danger to safety. I thank you, survivors, who lost so much, for your dedication and hard work in rebuilding our world, hopefully in smarter, stronger and safer ways. I thank my staff and all of the government workers across the state for the rough hours they spent piecing our world back together. The work was hard, unrelenting and did not stop when the cameras went away. People from every corner of Louisiana pulled together to help each other in those dark days. From across the nation and world, people reached out to us, and I thank them.

I knew from the beginning that the journey would be difficult but that with God’s grace we could survive. We did survive. And dare I claim we are thriving in many new ways impossible to have foreseen before those calamities? Louisianans have faced a number of new challenges since the 2005 hurricanes and more will come, but we are a strong people and can face them all. I thank all of you for your courage and hard work while I was your governor.

It has been an honor and blessing to have been chosen, like Esther, to lead our people at such a time as this. Again, please add me to your prayer list. I hope I can survive and thrive as you have done.

I pray for blessings and peace to you and your families as we enter this holiday season that leads us to the blessings of Christmas and a hopeful new year.

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