After cancer diagnosis, Florida Gov. DeSantis calls wife Casey a ‘very, very strong woman’

'I know this is a bad break, but she’s got an awful lot to live for'

John Kennedy
Gov. Ron DeSantis and wife, Casey DeSantis

TALLAHASSEE – Calling his wife a “very, very strong woman,” Gov. Ron DeSantis spoke at length Tuesday for the first time since wife Casey DeSantis announced last week that she was battling breast cancer. 

“I’ve got faith in the big guy upstairs,” DeSantis said at an event in St. Pete Beach. “And I’ve got faith in her. And I know that this is a bad break, but she’s got an awful lot to live for.”

DeSantis said his wife has already received some early medical treatment and that “she’s the healthiest person in the whole hospital.”

Background:'Most difficult test of her life': Casey DeSantis, Florida First Lady, battling breast cancer

What's ahead:Casey DeSantis' cancer journey will include balancing the private and public, survivors say

“Her view is, ‘better me than someone who might not be able to deal with it this way’ … that’s just her spirit,” he added. Casey DeSantis, 41, and the governor have three children under the age of 5.

The governor and his office have not shared details about the first lady’s condition or treatment plan. But she did step down as chair of the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet within days of announcing her diagnosis.

The panel had been active on several issues, including prevention of youth suicide.

“We’ve got a road ahead,” the governor said. “Our kids are young enough that they don’t really know what’s going on.”

He also revealed that when he was in elementary school, his mother was treated for breast cancer. Like his own children today, DeSantis said he was too young to remember details, calling the episode a “total blur to me.”

With October breast cancer awareness month, the governor urged Floridians to follow doctors’ recommendations aimed at detecting or battling the disease.

“These screenings can really be life-saving,” DeSantis said. “Make sure you go in and do that when the physicians tell you to.”

Of his wife, the governor said, “She fights. She’s tough.” And her embrace of the treatment ahead is encouraging, he said: “That’s why I love her. She’s an exceptional person.” 

Casey DeSantis speaks, with husband and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis behind her, at the Nathaniel P. Reed Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge in this April 29, 2019 file photo.

Governor also concerned with policy, politics in advance of election year

At the event in St. Pete Beach, in which he spoke about the state’s distribution of $2 million for a local wastewater treatment project, DeSantis also addressed issues in the forefront of the Biden administration and on the mind of former President Trump.

DeSantis continued his attack on Biden’s plan to set rules requiring employers with more than 100 workers to be vaccinated or tested weekly for COVID-19. The governor has been fighting what he derides as vaccine passports – using a new state law that gives him power to invalidate local emergency measures in response to public health disasters.

“Our law is very clear,” he said. “We don’t want people to be discriminated against, regardless of their status on getting these shots.”

The Florida Department of Health released a list of businesses under investigation Monday for requiring workers to be vaccinated: Major League Baseball's Miami Marlins, Starbucks, Disney Cruise Line and a host of local governments, theaters, convention centers and libraries are on the list.

DOH on Tuesday also fined Leon County more than $3.5 million for making county government employees follow mask policies.

DeSantis said he expected Florida to join other Republican-led states in challenging the Biden requirements. “This has become about politicians wanting to control people,” he said.

DeSantis’ political mentor, Trump, has been pushing states to conduct more audits of the 2020 presidential election results.

Ron DeSantis: No election audit in Florida

DeSantis’ political mentor, Trump, has been pushing states to conduct more audits of the 2020 presidential election results – fanning his false claims that he actually won a contest he lost in the Electoral College and by 7 million votes in the popular election.

Texas, like Florida, was carried by Trump last November, but it has become a target for the ex-president. Trump is threatening that state’s Republican House speaker while demanding a vote there soon that would spark an audit.

DeSantis, though, defended Florida’s election performance. Trump carried the state by 372,000 votes and the governor said the state’s pre- and post-election audits, “passed with flying colors.”

Florida’s Republican-led Legislature also approved a sweeping elections law that limited mail-ballots, drop boxes and ballot collecting. The measure, signed by DeSantis in May in a ceremony broadcast on Fox News, is being challenged by the League of Women Voters, NAACP and others as unconstitutional, claiming it limits voting access in minority communities.

“We’ve had a good election, and we want to make sure we continue that going forward,” DeSantis said.

John Kennedy is a reporter in the USA TODAY Network’s Florida Capital Bureau. He can be reached at, or on Twitter at @JKennedyReport