‘A dull sensation’: FL First Lady had six chemo treatments during experience with breast cancer

By: - May 17, 2022 5:01 pm

First Lady Casey discusses her breast cancer diagnosis and treatments on May 17, 2022. Credit: screenshot/the Florida Channel

At a Tuesday press conference involving $100 million in cancer research, First Lady Casey DeSantis went into more details about her breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, which included six chemotherapy appointments.

“When the bad news was pouring in — and it seemed like a barrage of bad news, right? People who have been diagnosed with cancer knows what that feels like,” she said. “You go in and do a test. And then you wait. And then you get the news. And then you do another test. And you wait. And you get the news.”

She was at the Tuesday press conference, located at University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, to highlight millions of dollars in the 2022 state budget for cancer research facilities.

She said that her husband, Gov. Ron DeSantis, was with her throughout the experience.

“And he (Gov. DeSantis) stood by me the entire time. And not only did he do that, he never missed a chemotherapy appointment. Six of those. Sitting in there, very uncomfortable. And he held my hand through everything,” she said.

During her comments, she recapped the story of how she received her breast cancers diagnosis. She first relayed her story in December of 2021, but she explained in a little more detail what alerted her to push towards getting a breast cancer screening, which she referred to as an internal “dull sensation.”

“Something didn’t feel right internally,” she said Tuesday. “There wasn’t anything I felt in my breast. I didn’t feel a lump, I didn’t feel a bump. For a lot of women out there, you have lumpy, bumpy breasts — that’s just the way it goes, right? It just, it is what it is.

“But something wasn’t right, so I went to talk to my OBGYN, my gynecologist, and I said ‘something didn’t feel right, I can almost explain it as a dull sensation.’… Unfortunately, she did not recommend I get a mammogram. I walked out the doctor’s office. I felt fine for about five minutes – until that nagging, internal feeling would not go away. Like I said, it was a dull sensation, something that I never experienced before. That sensation stuck with me so much, I said ‘I’ve got to get this checked out.’”

She got a mammogram and the cancer was detected then. The Governor’s Office made the news about the First Lady’s diagnosis in early October.

“And I’ll never forget the looks of some the folks’ faces, when they see these things day in and day out — you know when they see something that doesn’t look good. And you have to sit there and think ‘what does that mean? And what is happening?'” she continued.

Ms. DeSantis was there to help Gov. DeSantis spotlight $100 million dollars allocated in the state budget to fund three cancer centers in Florida, the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, the University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, and the University of Florida Health Cancer Center in Gainesville.

Since the end of the 2022 regular legislative session, Gov. DeSantis has been traveling about Florida making promises to approve certain budget items, such as the $100 million in cancer research. The Legislature has not formally presented the 2022-23 budget to DeSantis yet.

Another budget item he offhandedly promised to approve at the Tuesday conference is funding for a program called Live Like Bella, which the Legislature has funded since 2017 for pediatric cancer research.

This year, the Legislature allocated $3 million towards Live Like Bella, according to the 2022-23 state budget. Lawmakers approved an additional $1 million for the Live Like Bella initiative as a local project filed by Central Florida Republican Rep. Josie Tomkow.

Local projects are ways to get money into the state budget for constituents and other local programs. The local projects inserted into the state budget range in size and scope and can face scrutiny in some cases.

There are additional line items in the budget involving cancer care, though the governor has not explicitly indicated if these item would be funded. He still has time to veto or approve line items in the budget before the next fiscal year starts in July.

Additional local projects involving cancer approved by the 2022 legislature:

/$500,000 to go towards “City of Homestead – Breast Cancer Screening” for “uninsured women over the age of 40,” filed by Miami-Dade Democrat Rep. Kevin Chambliss;

/$2 million for “Functional Drug Testing to Individualize Cancer Treatments,” to establish a facility for “for functional drug sensitivity and resistance testing on patient’s tumor cells against FDA-approved drugs” aimed to guide treatment decisions, help improve cancer outcomes and find the “most efficient and least toxic therapies” for individual patients. This was filed by Miami-Dade Democrat Rep. Nicholas Duran.

/$7,115,181 million for building a “Moffit Cancer Center Partnership School” for the purpose of “building a high tech/innovative public education training facility” that will high school and college students “into direct interaction” with professionals involved in researching cancer. This was filed by Sen. Ed Hooper, a Republican who represents parts of Pinellas and Pasco counties.

Ms. DeSantis also teased a future initiative that seems to involve sharing the stories of other cancer patients and survivors.

“But one thing that got me through it — husband, surely, children, yes, great medical care, yes — are some of the women behind me who are cancer survivors,” she said. “You don’t hear a lot about the good news, and we’re going to change that in the state of Florida – a foreshadow a little bit of a project that we’re working on with the great surgeon general and of course the leadership of the governor to share more of the good news.”

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Danielle J. Brown
Danielle J. Brown

Danielle J. Brown is a 2018 graduate of Florida State University. She has served as an editorial intern for International Program’s annual magazine and Rowland Publishing. She was born and raised in Tallahassee and reviews community theater productions for the Tallahassee Democrat.