Former Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, whose term will forever be linked to Hurricane Katrina, is gravely ill and fighting for her life.
Blanco, Louisiana’s only woman to serve as governor, said in a press release that a rare form of cancer first treated more than six years ago has metastasized to her liver.
“I am in a fight for my own life, one that will be difficult to win,” Blanco said in a statement. “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.”
Blanco has written an open letter to the people of Louisiana published today in USA TODAY Network’s newspapers in her hometown of Lafayette and in Alexandria, Monroe, Opelousas and Shreveport.
The former governor suffers from ocular melanoma, which was first diagnosed in 2011.During a routine cancer checkup in Memphis in October, doctors discovered the melanoma had spread. She is currently undergoing treatment each month in Philadelphia.
“With the help of talented doctors and medical professionals, my eye was treated with radiation, which successfully preserved my vision,” Blanco said. “I now face a new challenge.”
Blanco asked Louisianians to pray for her and all other patients fighting life-threatening diseases.
Gov. John Bel Edwards noted Blanco’s “abiding love of Louisiana.”
“Donna and I have been blessed to come to know Gov. Blanco and her large, beautiful family over the past several years,” he said. “She is a strong woman of incredible faith, a deep and abiding love of Louisiana and all its people.
“Now we ask the people of our state to join their prayers to ours that she, aided by the Great Physician as well as her medical team, wins a great victory over cancer and is restored to full health.”
Blanco was first elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives in 1983, then in 1988 to the Louisiana Public Service Commission. She was elected lieutenant governor in 1995 and governor in 2003 and, in fact, never lost an election.
Her single term as governor forever will be linked with Hurricane Katrina, the worst natural disaster in Louisiana history, and shortly after Hurricane Rita, which created devastating damage in southwestern Louisiana.
Blanco’s popularity dipped following her response to the storms. She chose not to seek re-election and instead focus on the state’s recovery from Katrina and Rita.
“She retired undefeated in Louisiana politics, a rare feat,” said Pearson Cross, a University of Louisiana at Lafayette political scientist. “Kathleen Blanco was underestimated during her career.
“But her opponents and those who doubted her abilities should have known better. She achieved all she strived for in her lengthy and storied career.”