Orange County Sheriff-Coroner Sandra Hutchens announced today she has been diagnosed with breast cancer, but plans to remain on the job while undergoing treatment over the next six to eight months.
At a news conference this afternoon, Hutchens said she is ``very optimistic'' about her prognosis.
``I had chemo Friday and I was at work Monday,'' she said. ``They're much better at treatment now.''
The sheriff said she will undergo four cycles of chemotherapy three weeks apart before having surgery to remove the tumor, which was a little more than two centimeters when discovered.
``They think they caught it early because there was nothing on the mammogram,'' Hutchens said.
The sheriff said she would sideline herself if she felt she wasn't up to her duties.
``If at any time I felt I could not carry out my duties I would arrange for something else,'' she said. ``The doctors say some people get fatigued, and some people power through it. I'm powering through it.''
Hutchens believes she can remain in touch even during treatment.
``I'm going to be in charge, thanks to iPhones and iPads,'' she said.
Sheriff's officials were notified about the cancer diagnosis through a department memo on Nov. 14.
The sheriff struck a philosophical tone as she at times got emotional discussing her health.
``You know how we say, `Don't sweat the small stuff,' but we do anyway? But when you get this, it's all small stuff,'' Hutchens said.
``I try to look at the positives,'' she said. ``I'm not 30, I'm not a single mom.''
Hutchens said she has no history of cancer in her family and has never smoked, so the diagnosis was a shock.
It stunned sheriff's officials, too.
`It was a shock, a sad moment for us,'' said sheriff's Cmdr. Steve Kea. The sheriff said she will have to cut back on some speaking engagements, mostly on the weekends. Officials under her, such as Assistant Sheriff Lee Trujillo and Kea, said they will happily fill in.
``We don't think there will be any lag,'' Kea said.
Trujillo noted the sheriff has not missed a day of work since her diagnosis.
Hutchens said she made announcement because she believes ``the public
has a right to know.''
Hutchens took over for disgraced former Sheriff Mike Carona, who was convicted of witness tampering on Jan. 16, 2009. Carona surrendered to authorities in January 2011 to begin serving 5 1/2 years in a federal prison in Colorado.
Hutchens was elected sheriff in June 2010 when she won more than 50 percent of the vote against two candidates, avoiding a runoff election in November of that year.
Hutchens took over the office at a time when the sheriff was called on to handle multimillion-dollar budget shortfalls.
The department plugged some of the holes with a multimillion-dollar deal with federal authorities to rent the county's empty beds in its jail in the city of Orange. A state law seeking to address prison overcrowding, however, has presented new budget problems for the sheriff's department.
Trujillo said he expects that the coming challenges in the department will energize his boss, as the hurdles she overcame taking over for Carona did. ``She came into this organization on the heels of former Sheriff Carona. It was a challenge,'' Trujillo said. ``We were in need of changes throughout the organization. Our brand was tarnished. But she took us in and in a short amount of time has elevated this department.''
- City News Service