John Anderson, MD
Dr. John Anderson grew up just down I-10 in Baton Rouge. His first experiences with cancer took place during his childhood. When he was six, his mother began her twenty-year battle with breast cancer, and when he was thirteen, his father was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
When it came time for college, Dr. Anderson chose to stay in town and attend LSU, knowing his father was still battling aggressive cancer. Then as he was reaching the end of his undergraduate years, his mother's breast cancer unexpectedly returned. He postponed his pursuit of a Ph.D. in Physics to stay close to home, and three years after the reoccurrence, she passed away.
During this time, Dr. Anderson realized he wanted a career where he could use his gifts to help people directly instead of researching physics in a laboratory, removed from the daily suffering and joy people experience. So, he decided to change his career path and pursue a medical degree at UT Southwestern in Dallas, Texas. Dr. Anderson admired the oncologist his family had gotten to know so well. Combined with his love of physics, this piqued his interest in Radiation Oncology. He entered medical school with this career path in mind and never found another specialty he felt more suited toward.
After 14 years as a Radiation Oncologist, Dr. Anderson recognizes the great gift of witnessing such amazing transformations among his patients. He feels privileged to help them and participate in curing their disease. According to Dr. Anderson, there is nothing more spiritually rewarding than seeing his patients' strength and courage in the face of suffering in their battle against cancer.
Outside of his career, Dr. Anderson spends his time with his wife and five children, pursuing his love of learning and passing that on to his children. He loves to garden, lift weights, and read the great books of ancient philosophy and literature, though he'll probably never read all the books on his list. He is also very passionate about the Gospel and his Catholic faith and is active in his home parish of Our Lady of Wisdom Catholic Church.
Julian Blanchard's journey began in the small town of Arnaudville, Louisiana, where he grew up as one of five children, surrounded by a tight-knit and affectionate extended family. He was exposed to the harsh realities of cancer early in life. Witnessing his paternal grandfather and maternal grandmother triumph over cancer, Julian learned firsthand about the challenges this illness can pose to patients and their loved ones. Unfortunately, this was not where cancer's impact ended for Julian.
In 2014, at the age of 25, Julian felt like he was on top of the world. He was close to completing his studies at UL Lafayette and eagerly anticipating the start of his career. When he wasn't busy with school or spending time with his loved ones, he would travel back and forth to Orlando, where he worked seasonally at Walt Disney World, and to Memphis, Tennessee, where his girlfriend, now wife, was pursuing her doctoral degree. Julian maintained a healthy lifestyle by exercising regularly and nourishing his body with nutritious foods. He felt invincible and unstoppable, but he was unaware of the curveball coming his way.
Julian's life took a dramatic turn after experiencing several bouts of nausea and fainting spells. Weeks of poking, prodding, scanning, and testing led to the diagnosis of stage 3 carcinoid cancer - the same rare cancer that his grandfather battled years before. The severity of the diagnosis required a major surgery involving the removal of 2 ½ feet of his small intestine, where doctors had found 15 small tumors.
Despite the difficult and daunting experience, Julian emerged with a deep sense of gratitude for surviving and a newfound longing to support others battling similar issues. He has made it his mission to live life to the fullest, savoring every moment with his loved ones, traveling the world and exploring new cultures with his beautiful wife, staying physically active, and dedicating his time to worthy causes. Julian's commitment to fighting cancer is unwavering, having participated in several charitable events, such as the American Cancer Society's Real Men Wear Pink campaign in 2021 and 2022. He has even gone above and beyond by growing and donating his hair twice, with plans for a third donation underway. His character and dedication to making a difference in the world inspire all who know him.
Julian is a shining example of resilience, gratitude, and the human spirit's triumph over adversity. He is truly moved and grateful to be recognized as a 2023 Spirit of Hope Honoree.
Matthew Boudreaux, MD
Dr. Matthew Boudreaux was born and raised in Scott, Louisiana, where his family ties to the city trace back over 150 years. He learned the value of hard work and a good education early in life by watching his parents often work two jobs to make ends meet.
After changing his major three times in college, Dr. Boudreaux's parents convinced him to try biology. He excelled in science and decided to pursue medical school. Initially, Dr. Boudreaux wanted to be a small-town family doctor back home in Scott. However, that all changed after watching a bowel and liver resection on his first day of surgery training. From that moment on, he was hooked on the field of surgery.
During surgery training, Dr. Boudreaux learned that colon cancer is highly prevalent in Louisiana, and that the colon cancer rate in Acadiana is higher than anywhere else in the state. He always knew he wanted to return home to practice medicine. Learning this confirmed that home in Acadiana was exactly where he needed to be.
Dr. Boudreaux enjoys spending his free time with his wife and four children. You will most likely find them at gymnasiums, football fields, track meets, and baseball tournaments.
Dr. Boudreaux feels honored to be one of the 2023 American Cancer Society Spirit of Hope Honorees. He is thankful for the opportunity to help support the mission of saving lives.
Chance DeWitt, MD
Dr. Chance DeWitt, an Alexandria native, spent many of his early years working on the family farm. While in high school, he befriended a cardiac surgeon who piqued his interest in the medical field. During college, he had the opportunity to assist a cardiothoracic surgeon and found his passion. Dr. DeWitt attended LSU in Baton Rouge before completing his medical doctorate at LSU Shreveport. For the next six years, Dr. DeWitt completed a general surgery residency at UT Memphis, including one year of research. He later secured a cardiovascular surgery fellowship at the Texas Heart Institute in Houston, followed by a fellowship in thoracic surgery at MD Anderson. There, he was immersed in the treatment of all thoracic cancers, learning about the most advanced cancer surgeries and treatments available in the world.
Over the past 20 years in private practice, Dr. DeWitt cared for many cancer patients. He truly appreciates what patients and their families go through when someone close to them is diagnosed with cancer, as his father received a lung cancer diagnosis years ago. He is thankful today that his father has been cancer-free for 15 years.
Now continuing his work as a cardiothoracic and vascular surgeon with Our Lady of Lourdes Health, Dr. DeWitt is working with the oncology department, pulmonologists, and other local providers to identify early lung nodules, allowing for earlier diagnosis and more favorable treatment options.
Dr. DeWitt is humbled to be recognized as one of this year's Spirit of Hope Honorees. He believes the American Cancer Society is an invaluable resource for patients and doctors in Acadiana, and he looks forward to working with the organization to support its positive impact on the community.
Kim Drew, MD
Dr. Kim Drew was born in Franklin, Louisiana, and grew up in the small town of Baldwin as the fifth of eight children. She and her siblings are the first-born generation in America, born to parents who immigrated from Vietnam.
Always knowing she wanted to become a physician, Dr. Drew followed that dream through many years of schooling. She earned a Bachelor of Science from the University of Louisiana at Monroe and a Master of Science from Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, Louisiana. She then received her MD from Louisiana State University School of Medicine in New Orleans and completed her medical training with an Internal Medicine internship and a Dermatology residency at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center.
Dr. Drew is a board-certified dermatologist. She is a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society, the American Academy of Dermatology, the Louisiana Dermatological Society, and the Women's Dermatologic Society. Additionally, Dr. Drew is currently serving as the Vice President of the Lafayette Parish Medical Society.
She was inspired to focus her career on dermatology because she knew there was a need for the specialty in Lafayette. Upon returning home, she partnered with Dr. Frankie Rholdon and Dr. Emily Speeg to create Lafayette Dermatology, a practice that now services thousands of patients across Acadiana and the surrounding areas. Because most patients come in for routine skin exams, she often discovers skin cancer on their bodies without them even being aware. This ability to find skin cancer early and take care of those cancers before they advance is one of the most fulfilling parts of her job.
Aside from seeing cancer in the workplace, Dr. Drew also experienced what it was like when it affected a loved one. Her sister, Thuy Tran, battled breast cancer and, fortunately, is now 7 years into remission. The strength and courage that her sister showed during her fight with the disease were an inspiration to her.
Dr. Drew and her husband, Otis, reside in Lafayette with their three children, Austin, Cole, and Aubrey. In her free time, you can find her making memories with the four of them.
Michelle Bellard Hanks
Michelle Bellard Hanks was born to Carl and Ethel Bellard on October 26, 1961, in Opelousas, Louisiana. She grew up in a family of six, including four brothers, one of whom is her twin, and one sister. Michelle and her husband, Bryan Hanks, live in Lafayette, Louisiana, where she has lived for 35 years. Her pride and joy are her children, Lance and Sarah Diesi.
Michelle attended LSUE and USL, now known as UL Lafayette, earning a Bachelor of Science in Accounting to become a CPA like her father. She worked for Darnall, Sikes, & Frederick for 23 years and is now CFO of Beta Land Services, LLC. Aside from her work as a CPA, Michelle is also a notary public and a member of the Louisiana Society of CPAs and the American Society of CPAs.
No stranger to cancer, Michelle saw one of her brothers, Rusty Bellard, and one of her sisters-in-law, Penny Bellard, go through their own battles with the disease. However, she never expected to be getting a cancer diagnosis herself. But, on August 7, 2021, Michelle felt a lump, and less than two weeks later, this discovery would lead to a diagnosis of estrogen and progesterone-negative, HER2-positive Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. Over the next year, she underwent six months of harsh chemotherapy treatments, a double mastectomy and reconstruction, and ten additional chemotherapy treatments. Then, on September 20, 2022, she finished treatment and rang the bell.
Michelle is filled with gratitude to be one of the 2023 Spirit of Hope Honorees. She wants everyone to know the importance of continuing to find cures for cancer and working to enhance the treatment options available. Michelle remains grateful to God, her medical team, and the countless friends and family who helped her get to where she is today.
Eugene Kwarteng has made Louisiana his permanent home. He was born in Ghana, West Africa, and transplanted to Texas, where he grew up. In 2001, Eugene attended The University of Louisiana at Lafayette on an athletic scholarship to play football. He graduated in May 2006 with a B.F. A. degree. After ending his professional football endeavors, he found his passion in fitness.
Eugene has worked at Reds Health Club in Lafayette, Louisiana, for 16 years and has been a fitness trainer for 14 years. In his profession, the relationship between Eugene and his clients evolves over time, and in some cases, long-lasting friendships emerge from working with each other. Over the years, he has had the opportunity to work closely with individuals who have battled cancer. Some have been successful, but unfortunately, some have lost their battles. When a client receives a cancer diagnosis, the fitness journey changes, and Eugene has learned to adapt the training regimen based on where a person is in their treatment schedule. When the body is at an optimal fitness level, it can help with overall resilience and morale for cancer patients. Eugene is thankful to be a part of the support network for his clients going through cancer journeys.
The youngest of three siblings, Anita Levy is the daughter of the late Irvin and Josephine Levy of Abbeville. At an early age, Anita learned what it was to be humble by watching her mother be a caregiver for both her parents. Anita eventually became a caregiver to her parents, her brother Irvin Jr., and one of her cousins.
In November 2013, Anita's sister Cassie founded the Levy Cancer Foundation, named in memory of her parents and now her brother Irvin Jr., who passed away from neuroendocrine cancer two years ago. Anita has been Chairman of the Board of the Levy Cancer Foundation since 2015. The foundation's mission is "Treating Cancer Close to Home." One way they help achieve this is by collaborating with Abbeville General Hospital to ensure that residents in Vermilion Parish have viable cancer treatment options in Abbeville. In addition, the Levy Cancer Foundation sponsors a yearly Golf Classic in June as a fundraiser and an annual "Pink Event" and luncheon during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, honoring breast cancer patients for their strength and struggles through treatments.
Anita has worn many hats in her community work in Vermilion Parish. She has been a member of the Board of Directors of Abbeville General Hospital since 2013, replacing her mother, who was on the board for over 20 years. She is President of the Vermilion Parish Council on Aging, the Vermilion Parish Library Board of Control, and the St. Theresa of the Child Jesus Ladies Altar Society. She was the past Parish Council President for over 14 years at St. Theresa of the Child Jesus Church in Abbeville, a past member of the Board of Directors of the Assist Agency, and the past President of the Park and Recreation Board for the City of Abbeville. Most recently, in April 2023, Anita was nominated and appointed to be on the Board of Directors for United Way of Acadiana.
Anita has received several awards for her commitment to the community. In 2012 and 2019, she received the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award for outstanding service to church and community for the Diocese of Lafayette. She also received the Bishop's Service Award Medal in 2018 and the Women Who Mean Business Award in 2020.
Anita would like to thank the American Cancer Society for her nomination and for their work improving the lives of those with cancer and their families through advocacy, research, and patient support, ensuring everyone has an opportunity to prevent, treat, and survive cancer.
In 1994, Ginger Myers noticed that residents, especially the elderly, in her small community of Palmetto, Louisiana, had limited access to healthcare. So, before and after her 12-hour nursing shifts at Opelousas General Hospital, she began offering her time, knowledge, kindness, and skills to those in need by visiting and caring for them in their homes. Her efforts made healthcare more accessible for her community and led to the founding of St. Landry Home Health - the single small agency that would become LHC Group. As the company's first nurse, her approach to nursing and caring for her community formed the foundation of LHC Group's unique company culture of service to families, communities, and co-workers at a local and personal level.
In February 2020, Mrs. Myers was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). The news was shocking, as she had adhered to annual exams. Still, she considered the early detection a wake-up call and wasted no time having surgery and doing everything possible to reduce the risk of reoccurrence. During her experience, she drew strength from her family, who helped her make the necessary decisions and stood by her through five surgeries.
As an avid enthusiast of outdoor hobbies, she was determined not to let her diagnosis or recovery procedures decide what she could or could not accomplish. So, amid her surgeries, she participated in the 2020 MONGO Offshore Challenge. On July 5, 2020, she landed an 852-pound blue marlin that set the Alabama state record and the all-time Gulf of Mexico record for a female angler. It was a momentous life event and a "true blessing" during her recovery.
In addition to being a cancer survivor, Mrs. Myers has worked as an advocate for many organizations that help raise awareness of important health issues and provide support for communities and people across the Acadiana region. In 2013, Mrs. Myers and her husband, Keith, received the "Leaders in Philanthropy Award" for St. Landry Parish. In 2018, she was inducted into the Homecare Association of Louisiana's Hall of Honor. And in May 2022, she received an honorary Doctorate of Nursing from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
Mrs. Myers learned that early detection is vital after her journey with breast cancer, and she is thankful for the research that is saving countless lives impacted by this disease.
Hemendra Mhadgut, MD
Dr. Hemendra Mhadgut received his medical degree from Terna Medical College in Navi Mumbai, India. After graduating, he knew he wanted to move to the United States to excel in medicine and work with the best doctors. This brought him to Houston, Texas, where he received a master's in public health from the University of Texas Health Science Center. While there, he had the opportunity to work at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center as a research assistant, where experiences with patients and the exciting research studies he was part of piqued his interest in oncology as a career choice. However, Dr. Mhadgut's deep interest in how and why things work led him to a combined Internal Medicine-Geriatric Medicine program for his residency and fellowship at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Virginia. This training gave him a strong foundation as an internist and a valuable understanding of the nuances involved in caring for older adults.
With these new skills, he completed a Medical Oncology fellowship at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Tennessee. And now, Dr. Mhadgut works at the Cancer Center of Acadiana in New Iberia and is an attending physician at Ochsner Lafayette General Hospital. As he learns more about oncology, Dr. Mhadgut is continuously reminded how essential it is to know the normal before you can treat the abnormal and how studying physiology down to the basics has helped physicians and scientists identify various pathways to treat cancer.
Dr. Mhadgut's goal is to apply and build on the skills he has developed as a physician, clinical researcher, and educator and contribute positively to the field of oncology. He looks forward to carrying the torch passed on by many generations of physicians in the quest for a cure so that one day they can tell all patients, "We can absolutely get rid of your cancer."
Victoria Panelli-Ramery, MD
Dr. Victoria Panelli-Ramery was born and raised in Ponce, Puerto Rico. Her father was an electrical engineer, and her mother was an elementary school teacher. Dr. Panelli-Ramery has known she wanted to work in healthcare since she was a little girl. This dream eventually led her to the Ponce School of Medicine, where she earned her medical degree. She then traveled to New Orleans, Louisiana, and completed an Internal Medicine Residency and Hematology/Oncology Fellowship at Tulane University Medical Center.
As a physician, Dr. Panelli-Ramery always aims to help people feel better. In medical oncology, this means actively working to eradicate the cancer affecting her patients. However, when a cure is not possible for her patients, she is equally dedicated to extending and improving their quality of life by alleviating their symptoms. She understands the anxieties that come with a cancer diagnosis and considers it an honor and privilege to assist patients and their families through these difficult times.
Dr. Panelli-Ramery has three children, Gabriel, Nahir, and Sarah, and two grandsons. She enjoys spending her time outside of work with her family.
Dana Rivera moved from Baton Rouge to Lafayette with her family in 1995. She is married to Jim Rivera and is the mother of five children and soon-to-be eight grandchildren. She is retired from the Lafayette Parish Public School System after thirty-two years of teaching. During her career, Dana was awarded Teacher of the Year for Broadmoor Elementary School and the Lafayette Education Foundation Award for many years.
Though raising five children while teaching full-time kept Dana busy, she has always been committed to giving back to her community. She has volunteered for numerous local organizations, including Faith House, Junior League of Lafayette, St. Joseph's Diner, Cajun Road Runners Club, Festival International, and Lafayette High School. Dana has also been involved with Miles Perret Cancer Center for many years announcing the Camellia Crossing race. She never thought that her family would need their services years later.
In June 2013, on his fourteenth birthday, Jim and Dana's son Parker was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. They rushed Parker to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, where he spent the next eighteen months fighting a fierce battle. Parker bravely faced his cancer diagnosis each day with faith and acceptance, and though the pain and suffering were excruciating at times, he never complained. His strength inspired Dana to make a difference by raising money and awareness for childhood cancer. Dana, along with family and friends, has run the St. Jude Memphis Marathon and raised over $250,000 since 2013. In addition, a private company the Riveras have ties to has committed 7 million dollars over the next ten years to St. Jude in Parker's honor. Dana and her family are committed to spending the rest of their lives honoring Parker's memory by continuing these efforts.
Dana is humbled to be recognized as a 2023 Spirit of Hope Honoree by the American Cancer Society, whose services change the lives of cancer patients and their families daily.
John Storment, MD
As the son of an engineer and teacher, Dr. John Storment's only exposure to medicine in his youth was the occasional ER trip or watching MASH re-runs on TV. However, his schooling ultimately led him to LSU Health Science Center in Shreveport, where he graduated in 1992. He later completed a residency in Obstetrics & Gynecology from UT Health Science Center in Houston and a fellowship in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility (REI) at the University of Vermont College of Medicine.
After completing the fellowship, he moved back to Louisiana and was affiliated with the Fertility Institute of New Orleans for three years. Then, in 2002, Dr. Storment established his practice, Fertility Answers, which now includes two full-time offices with embryology labs in Lafayette and Baton Rouge.
A unique aspect of cancer treatment that holds much significance within Dr. Storment's practice is pre-treatment fertility preservation for cancer patients. Cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation, are often toxic to sperm and eggs, meaning that reproductive-age patients must also consider the option to preserve fertility before beginning treatment. Through his work, Dr. Storment has helped many patients who were rendered infertile from treatments have healthy babies with cryopreserved eggs or sperm.
Additionally, Dr. Storment fights for his patients outside of the office by remaining active in the Louisiana legislature proposing mandates to require insurance companies to cover the cost of egg and sperm freezing. A bill is currently being considered with the hope of implementing such a mandate in 2024.
Dr. Storment is grateful to be a 2023 American Cancer Society Spirit of Hope Honoree and for the opportunity to educate the community about pre-treatment fertility preservation. He hopes the funds raised yearly can continue to provide improved access to quality care of all types for all patients.
Monica Zuschlag served as the 65th President of the Junior League of Lafayette, spreading their Mission of creating lasting community impact alongside a diverse powerhouse of more than 600 women. Before she became President of the League, Monica actively served in many leadership roles on the Board of Directors and Management Team, including Sponsorship Chair, Finance Vice President, and Director-at-Large. She has been an active League member for 12 years and is known for her spirit of engagement, can-do strategic mindset, and fundraising abilities. She was selected as the 2022 Women of Distinction Honoree by Girl Scouts Pines to the Gulf and is a Leadership Lafayette Class 36 member. Monica currently serves on fundraising and planning committees for several organizations, including Parish Proud and Lourdes Foundation. Outside of volunteer work, she spends time with her husband, Blaise, and three children, Rex, Joe Read, and Adley.
In 2021, Monica injured her back while exercising, leading to an MRI that initiated her cancer diagnosis of Clear Cell Renal Cell Carcinoma in her left Kidney. Many doctors told her she was lucky it was found early because this cancer usually isn't discovered until it has metastasized everywhere. This early diagnosis also meant surgery would be the focus of treatment. So, at the young age of 36, she underwent a partial nephrectomy at MD Anderson Cancer Center.
She believes that cancer treatment is much more than just surgery. The prayers, priests, therapists, local doctors, family, friends, and organizations like Miles Perret Cancer Services and the American Cancer Society make a world of difference in cancer care. Treatment of the whole patient is essential, and organizations like ACS make that a possibility for all patients. Monica credits her Catholic faith most of all with getting her through the hard times of her journey.
Gail Savoie was a frontrunner. When walking, she loved speeding toward a destination as quickly as her legs would carry her. She would then turn to those who followed to urge them - with an unmistakable, warm laugh and a twinkle in her eye - to keep up. But in November 2019, during a family trip to California, Gail found herself winded and in the unusual position of lagging behind. Days later, she came home from vacation to discover that, unknown to her, a much different journey had begun.
Gail always encouraged others, and she had many opportunities to do so. As a cheerleader and avid sports enthusiast, she boosted student-athletes toward victory and pushed fans to root for the home team. As a teacher, she empowered students to reach their potential. As an artist, Gail inspired those who viewed her work to see the world as she saw it - a place of vivid beauty. As First Lady of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, she welcomed all and ensured no one felt left out of the functions and activities she planned and participated in. And as a wife, mother, and grandmother, she offered unconditional support and love.
A native of Sulphur, Gail earned a bachelor's degree in elementary education from the University of Southwestern Louisiana, now UL Lafayette, in 1977. While a student at the University, she was a member of Delta Delta Delta sorority and was a cheerleader. She retained a connection with her Tri-Delt sisters - her beloved "Delta Roses" - and to
Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns Athletics throughout her lifetime.
Gail taught at St. Ignatius School in Grand Coteau and St. Antoine and Woodvale elementary schools in Lafayette. Her vivacious personality and enthusiasm for students made her a favorite teacher among them, their families, and her fellow educators. She listened to students and celebrated their accomplishments with an unforgettable smile, an
infectious laugh, and kind words that encouraged them to succeed further.
A gifted painter, she regularly gave her creative works to friends as presents. Children, angels, and nature were among her subjects. She specialized in Louisiana primitives using acrylic paints and brilliant colors, reflecting the brightness and joy that Gail carried with her wherever she went.
In her youth, Gail was a Camp Fire Girl, a dancer, and a multisport athlete. She graduated from Sulphur High School, where she was also a cheerleader. There, at age 16, she met and began dating Joseph "T-Joe" Savoie, who was also a student at Sulphur High. Their courtship continued while both pursued degrees at USL, and they married in 1977. The couple has two children, Blaire and Adam, and a granddaughter, Addison Marie.
Following her husband's inauguration as president of UL Lafayette in 2008, Gail became the University's First Lady. In that role, she served as a local, state, and national ambassador for her alma mater. Gail was a fixture at University activities and athletic events, and she cherished time spent with her Ragin' Cajuns family. She was a judge for the annual Paint the Town Red contest during Homecoming week. And every year, Gail proudly hosted multiple events at the President's House for the campus and Lafayette communities. Her favorite was Sneaux Day during the holiday season.
It was just before Sneaux Day in 2019 when Gail returned to Lafayette from California. The windedness and exhaustion she experienced on the trip were concerning, so she made a doctor's appointment. However, illness was foreign to Gail. She had been healthy and active all her life, and though she supported and encouraged many friends through their own diseases, including cancer, it never occurred to her that such a diagnosis would be in her future. But it was. She learned she had Stage 4 colon cancer.
Treatments began soon after. Not wanting to worry others or miss out on anything, Gail kept up with her duties as First Lady. Few people knew she was sick. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic put a stop to most functions, and Gail, like everyone else, stayed at home. In many ways, the separation helped keep her healthy. In others, it was deeply isolating for such a social, fun person.
Many of the friends she had supported during their cancer journeys would call or visit, masked and from a safe distance. They offered support and encouragement and urged her to take advantage of good days, and she did. In between treatments, when she felt up to it, she continued to paint and root for the Ragin' Cajuns.
But, after two years of excellent care, support, and love from family and friends, there was little else medical science could do for Gail. She passed away on Sunday, June 12, 2022. She was 67 years old.
Gail Savoie spent her life encouraging others - to walk faster, have fun, and see the world as a place of joy and light. As a tribute, her family erected a headstone with four phrases that offered final inspirations to memorialize Gail's spirit: Be Kind. Love Deeply. Live Fully. Laugh Often.