- Casey DeSantis took a break from official duties for several months as she received chemotherapy.
- She said her husband, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, was by her side during all her treatments.
- Florida is putting $100 million toward cancer research, the couple announced Tuesday.
Florida's first lady is back on the press and events circuit after recovering from breast cancer — and she wants everyone to know her husband, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, has been supportive through it all.
"If I start talking about how wonderful my husband is, that's when I start to lose it," Casey DeSantis said Tuesday after he introduced her at a press event in Miami. "I didn't wear waterproof mascara. To say that he has been by my side every step of the way — he literally has been."
Ron DeSantis sat next to her and held her hand as she underwent all six of her chemotherapy appointments, Casey DeSantis said. "He has picked me up literally and figuratively throughout this process," she added.
The couple first announced the breast cancer diagnosis publicly in October 2021.
Casey DeSantis, 41, is widely known among GOP circles to be her husband's top confidante, and for several months she took a break from her husband's frequent press events to focus on her health. Ron DeSantis is expected to easily get reelected this year and is widely considered to be a top contender for the presidency in 2024, especially if former President Donald Trump doesn't run.
His wife's comments on Tuesday show a softer dimension to the sometimes controversial governor, who has become a major star in the GOP as he fans cultural battles, aggressively confronts journalists, and wages high-profile disputes with the Biden administration.
The remarks also signal that Casey DeSantis, a former news show host, is prepared to make cancer care a key platform as first lady. Since her husband has been in office, she has largely focused on children's mental health.
On Tuesday, the couple announced that Florida would send $100 million toward cancer research. The total, authorized through the legislature, is $37 million higher than current funding.
"It's something that you can beat," Ron DeSantis said of a breast cancer diagnosis. "It's not easy, it's a very difficult thing to have happen to anybody but have faith and really fight hard, because the advances have been really significant."
During the event, Casey DeSantis opened up about how she learned she had breast cancer. She said she didn't feel any lumps but had a "dull sensation." Even though her obstetrician-gynecologist said during an appointment that she was good to go, she couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong, she said, so she pushed for a mammogram.
One of the major factors that kept her going after her diagnosis, she said, was hearing stories from other people who had recovered from the illness. She hinted that the governor's office would soon be announcing a public health project "to share more of the good news."
Ron DeSantis, 43, also spoke about his initial fears that his children — Madison, 5; Mason, 4; and Mamie, 2 — might grow up without a mother. He praised his wife for her positive attitude as she endured the treatment and shared that his mother, who was a nurse, had also had breast cancer when he was a child. The five-year survival rate for breast cancer today is 90%, according to the American Cancer Society.
"She was always doing whatever she could to make sure the kids were good, that I was good — I mean she's worrying about me during this," the governor said of his wife. "She was really a champion."
Casey DeSantis said that they didn't tell their children what was going on, but that they would share what happened when they got older.
"They are going to know that their dada stood by mama," she said, "and we fought this."