SANTA ANA, Calif. (KTLA) — Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens announced in November that she is seeking treatment for breast cancer.
She has headed the department since 2008, succeeding Mike Carona, who is now in federal prison for witness tampering.
Hutchens, 57, is widely credited with cleaning up a department ravaged by scandal.
On Tuesday, Hutchens sat down with KTLA’s Mary Beth McDade to talk about her fight with cancer.
“It’ll drop you to your knees when you’re told you have cancer,” Hutchens said. “My next question is am I going to live? Is it treatable?”
Hutchens discovered a lump in her breast through self-examination only six months after her annual mammogram showed nothing.
“The oncologist said it’s not unusual,” Hutchens said.
Although there’s no history of cancer in her family, Hutchens says she always wondered what she would do.
“Would I get chemo? What would I do? Would I get a lumpectomy? Would I get a mastectomy?” she recalled.
“I’ll tell you, when you’re told you have cancer, you’ll do anything to survive.”
Hutchens immediately began intense chemotherapy, causing her to tire easily and lose her hair. She now wears a wig.
“They told me I was going to lose my hair in a couple weeks after the chemo treatment. I did. And once it was done, it was done. It was okay.”
“My husband said hey you don’t look too bad, you’ve got a pretty good looking bald head,” she joked.
Her husband of 15 years has been her biggest support, going to chemotherapy with her and standing by her side “100 percent.”
She says that feeling vulnerable has been the hardest part, because in her profession, she’s used to helping others.
“It was hard for me to accept the label ‘cancer patient,'” Hutchens said.
She has almost completed her first round of chemo, and the next step is to get a lumpectomy in mid-February.
Hutchens will then have three more months of chemo and radiation. Her prognosis, according to her doctors, is very good.
“They’re very pleased with where I am today and how I’ve tolerated the chemo. The tumor is shrinking, that’s all good news. So they’re very optimistic.”