Former governor Kathleen Blanco asks for prayers as cancer prognosis worsens

Former governor Kathleen Blanco asks for prayers as cancer prognosis worsens

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A plea for prayers from former Governor Kathleen Blanco who reveals that she's fighting a rare form of cancer.

In a letter addressed to the citizens of Louisiana, she revealed her biggest battle, yet-- ocular melanoma that has invaded her liver.

Blanco first served the state in 1984 when she was elected to the state house. She became Louisiana's first female governor in 2003. Hurricane Katrina made landfall a year and a half later.

Blanco first announced her battle with cancer in 2011 when she was diagnosed.

FOX 8 News spoke to a specialist who explains what makes Blanco's diagnosis so challenging for doctors.

"Unfortunately, this has a very poor prognosis overall," said Dr. Adam Riker, Chief of Surgical Oncology with LSU Health New Orleans.

Oncologists say, it's not the kind of cancer you're familiar with that's related to sun exposure.

Its aggressive and rare.

"It's very uncommon. There's only about 2,000 to 2,500 cases of ocular melanoma in the United States per year," Dr. Riker explained.

While Blanco writes her doctors were successful in saving her sight, she admits she knew there was a possibility her cancer would spread.

In fact, Dr. Riker says the odds were against her.

"In over 50-percent of the cases it tends to, for whatever reason, go directly to the liver and that's the organ where it likes to metastasize," said Dr. Riker.

Now, Dr. Riker says doctors' greatest challenge will be figuring out how to effectively treat Blanco. He says one option with proven success is immunotherapy, in which patients take medicine to activate their own immune systems. In some instances, Dr. Riker says patients have become complete responders.

"That means all of their metastatic disease goes away and it doesn't come back," he said.

Yet, there's a problem.

"There are so few cases, we don't really know how effective immunotherapy is going to be for ocular melanoma," Dr. Riker said.

Blanco knows it, too. In her editorial she wrote:

"I've begun a treatment program that hopefully, over time, will quell these cancer demons. No treatment has yet been identified to cure this type of melanoma, so a variety of treatments will likely be necessary over time."

Blanco then asks Louisianians to pray for her and others fighting for their lives.

She counts her blessings and recounts her service to the state, thanking citizens for their support and resiliency through the years.

Blanco finishes the letter with a prayer for peace and her gratitude for the opportunity to lead.

"I hope I can survive and thrive as you have done."

Blanca move back to her hometown of Lafayette after leaving office.

According to FOX8's sister station in Baton Rouge, WAFB, a representative for Blanco says neither she nor her family will be doing interviews at this time.

Copyright 2017 WVUE. All rights reserved.