ST. PETERSBURG — City Council chair Darden Rice has fought for environmental causes for decades and tangled with a multitude of thorny urban issues since her 2013 election.
Now, she's engaged in a battle with breast cancer. And she's confident of victory.
Rice, 46, said Monday that she's undergoing treatment, which will include surgery, radiation and endocrine therapy, under the supervision of doctors at St. Anthony's Hospital in St. Petersburg and H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa.
"I have a lot of things going in my favor. I'm very optimistic," Rice told the Tampa Bay Times. "I intend to be a little old lady shaking my cane at the powers that be."
In a public statement, Rice urged women to seek preventive measures.
"I would be remiss if I did not shout from the rooftop: Early detection saves lives. I encourage women to take annual breast cancer screening regularly. It will save your life," Rice wrote.
Rice said she will miss some council duties in the next few months, but plans to file for reelection to her council seat in the coming weeks. When she's absent from council, her duties as chairwoman will be assumed by vice chairwoman Lisa Wheeler Bowman.
"I love the work I do. I love the city," Rice said. "But I'm putting my health first."
Rice said she received her final diagnosis Friday. On Sunday, she attended Mayor Rick Kriseman's urban affairs speech at Fairmount Park Elementary School.
On Monday, Rice asked for a short period of privacy while she and her family process the news.
But she promised to plunge back into public life as soon as her health allows.
"I campaigned three years ago on a platform of 'St. Pete Strong': strong city services, strong city economic development, strong neighborhoods," Rice wrote. "Three years later our city is stronger than ever."