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Her goal: Help people in everything she did

WESLEY CHAPEL — Darlene Gant's bright personality beamed in everything she did, from her lime green accent wall that her husband said she insisted on putting near the entryway to their home, to the practical jokes she would pull on caregivers to the lives she touched with her various community outreach initiatives throughout her life.

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Gant moved to Tampa in 1985 and graduated from the University of South Florida in 1989.

Mrs. Gant combined her entrepreneurial knowledge with her desire for community outreach when she founded Majestic Marketing and Management and, in an effort to help the senior citizens of her community, began the Senior Directory as a sort of who's who among caregivers, healthcare professionals and families of the elderly.

"Her goal was always to help people in everything she did," said Brian Gant, Darlene's husband of 17 years. "Everything she did was always with other people in mind."

In late 2005, a lump was discovered in Mrs. Gant's left breast. With the suggestion of her oncologist to do a left mastectomy, Mrs. Gant began rigorous research that would ignite the mission she carried until her final days. She opted for a double mastectomy, during which she was tested positive for cancer in 44 lymph nodes on her left side and 8 of 38 on her right.

With her husband and her then 5-year-old son Cameron by her side, she began her fight, never losing her helpful spirit.

Before long, Mrs. Gant knew her cancer meticulously and used her research to help the community of cancer survivors that she had joined. In 2006, she founded the H.O.P.E. (Health, Opportunity, Peace, & Education) Organization as a source of emotional, financial and informational support for other women facing the same battle.

"Every drug, every treatment she knew inside out," Brian Gant said. "Women would call her and ask about different treatments and right away she would say 'Okay, you need to talk to the doctor about this, that, and this.' She was just like an encyclopedia. It was just amazing."

Her knowledge was expansive, covering everything from alternative diets to chiropractic care, reiki and energy work, as well as vitamin and herbal supplements and modern western medicine.

Mrs. Gant garnered national attention in 2012, after being placed in Hospice care, when she made a viral YouTube video pleading with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to allow her to use a potentially life-extending drug called Pertuzumab under the compassionate care clause.

"She had all of her friends and people all over the world contacting the drug company and basically stopping business," said now 14-year-old Cameron Gant. "My mom told me they had about 5,000 blasting through."

Mrs. Gant received Pertuzumab on April 27, 2012, and her health began improving almost immediately.

"Because of the video and the drug, we had her for two years that we definitely wouldn't have had otherwise," Brian Gant said. "Before the video, Moffitt (Cancer Center and Research Institute) wasn't even in line to get the drug and now women in the Tampa Bay area are like first in line to get it."

Mrs. Gant's nine-year battle with breast cancer ended when she passed away on July 28. She was 49.

Through the H.O.P.E Organization she assisted more than 142 families navigate through a cancer diagnosis, and her mission continues through the work of her husband and son who plan to continue and grow the nonprofit.

Contact Kelsey Sunderland at hillsnews@tampabay.com.

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