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

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - 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.

Copyright 2017 WAFB. All rights reserved.