TALLAHASSEE — Florida’s first lady, Casey DeSantis, 41, was diagnosed with breast cancer, the governor’s office announced Monday.
In a brief statement, Gov. Ron DeSantis said his wife would have the support of their family as she faces down this health challenge. The governor also effusively praised his wife’s spirit.
“Casey is a true fighter, and she will never, never, never give up,” the governor said.
The governor’s office did not release details on the stage of the first lady’s cancer, or where she planned to be treated.
As first lady, Casey DeSantis has acted as far more than a figurehead. She’s become a policymaker as the state tries to improve its substance abuse and child welfare systems. And she’s appeared by her husband’s side at numerous discussions about Florida’s mental health during the coronavirus pandemic.
“She’s done a lot on, particularly mental health, substance abuse, a lot of issues. And as we’ve seen, particularly for school age kids, things like mental health are very, very significant,” Gov. DeSantis said at an event in Niceville last month which the first lady attended.
All of her major initiatives are aimed at fighting mental health and substance abuse locally. For example, in September, the first lady announced a new program, Hope Florida, which would connect businesses, religious groups, nonprofits and government entities through so-called “care navigators.” The idea is for the navigators to help struggling individuals find mental health resources at the community level.
DeSantis, a former television journalist from the Jacksonville area, has also been a key behind-the-scenes political advisor in her husband’s administration. With an office in the Capitol, she’s a pivotal figure on the team of a governor who is widely considered to be a front-runner for re-election to governor in 2022 — and perhaps a contender for the presidency in 2024.
Casey DeSantis discussed the role played in her husband’s administration in an interview with the News Service of Florida last year.
“I want people to know that I think it goes back to this: When much is given, much is expected,” she said during the interview. “And when I realized very quickly the impact that I could have, hopefully, on the state by just bringing people together to have a conversation, I thought, boy, there’s a lot we can do. And you owe it to the people of the state to be able to get out in whatever capacity you can to be able to do good.”
Within minutes of the governor’s statement Monday morning, well wishes came pouring in from across the political spectrum in Florida on social media.
“The prayers of the entire Senate family are with our wonderful First Lady Casey DeSantis, Governor DeSantis and their entire family,” tweeted Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby. Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, also tweeted that he would say prayers for the DeSantis family.
“You are in our prayers and we are in your corner,” Attorney General Ashley Moody tweeted.
“All of Florida is rooting for you @FLCaseyDeSantis to beat cancer and for a speedy recovery,” Sen. Annette Taddeo, D-Miami, a potential 2022 rival of the governor’s. DeSantis’ announced opponents, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist also tweeted messages of support.
Ron and Casey DeSantis have three children, Madison, 4, Mason, 3 and Mamie, 1. Casey gave birth to Mamie last March.