Former Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco has been diagnosed with choroidal melanoma, a rare eye cancer that affects roughly six in 1 million people. It was discovered in one eye during a comprehensive eye exam and confirmed by cancer specialists in early June. The Blancos are grateful for your support and ask for your prayers. Since this will be a challenging time for the family, information, updates and communication regarding the governor will be posted through Caring Bridge. She will receive your messages regularly.
Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, the first woman to serve as Louisiana’s governor, from 2004-2008. Governor Blanco was elected to four different offices during her 24 trailblazing years in public service.Her name was on the ballot nine times in tough races and runoffs, and she has never been defeated. She was the first woman from Lafayette elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives in 1983, and again in 1987.She then became the first woman in Louisiana elected to the Public Service Commission, where she was named chairman, and was re-elected for a second term with noopposition. She was elected twice as our lieutenant governor, and during her eight years in office built the state’s tourism business into a $9 Billion industry.She pushed the Main Street Program that revitalized downtowns in communities across the state. In 2003, Louisiana elected her governor over 19 men, many of them prominent political figures.Blanco was governor during the rough days, weeks, and months after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastates coastal Louisiana.She never quit fighting Washington for enough money for the recoveryeffort, despite a lot of push back. She secured over $29 Billion for Louisiana– for levee improvement, housing grants that helped more than 128,000 families get back into their homes, and to rebuild public infrastructure. Despite the intense recovery work, Governor Blanco still accomplished all of her initial goals by the end of her term – most notably in education.She prioritized investments from Pre-K to universities, funding teacher pay and higher education at the Southern averagefor the first time.She was nationally recognized for her economic development accomplishments, bringing new companies with good paying jobs here.She left office having built a solid foundation for recovery, with a balanced budget and a $2 Billion surplus. The New Iberia native is a graduate of Mount Carmel and UL-Lafayette, and is married to Raymond Blanco, a retired UL vice president andformer football coach.They are the parents of six children and the grandparents of nine.
At my one year anniversary, I am truly blessed to have once again passed a battery of oncology tests showing no signs of metastasis. The tumor in my eye is responding to the radiation treatment and is now about half its original size. So I have another 6 month reprieve! Praise God!
I had an opportunity to be invited to be a keynote speaker earlier this year at the Ocular Melnoma Foundation's patient conference held in Washington DC where I heard several specialists present the latest information on treating metastasis from this eye cancer.
This was a sobering experience. There is not much good news to report other than there are efforts by a few dedicated researchers to find cures for this potentially devastating disease mostly using money raised privately and specifically dedicated to finding a cure for ocular melanoma.
The large pharmaceuticals have little or perhaps no research money dedicated to "orphan diseases" like ocular melanoma that affect so few people since there is little to no potential return on their investment. In other words, they invest in seeking cures for diseases that affect a lot of people so they can make a lot of money off the sale of drugs.
As you may remember, 50% of all ocular melanoma cases are likely to spread as an agressive melanoma to the liver for which there is no known cure. I met some very courageous, wonderful people who also have this cancer. Some have metastacized, some have not. Please keep all of us in your prayers.
Thank you for the kind words of encouragement. And my prayers go to all of you who have been diagnosed or have someone close to you that has suffered from ocular melanoma. Don't forget your own annual dilated eye exam, either. Make your appointment today!
Your prayers have been sustaining and are deeply appreciated. Thank you!