Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens announced Monday she has been diagnosed with cancer, but plans to remain on the job.
Hutchens, a Dana Point resident, will remain on active duty, said department spokesman Jim Amormino.
“She is expected to make a full recovery and will seek re-election in 2013,” Amormino said. “However, when appropriate, her colleagues will step in for her if needed.”
At a news conference Monday 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 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.
The sheriff said she will have to cut back on some speaking engagements, mostly on the weekends.
Hutchens said she made the announcement because "the public has a right to know."
Hutchens will undergo treatment for six to eight months, said Amormino.
Hutchens was appointed to the position on June 10, 2008, replacing acting sheriff Jack Anderson. Anderson had led the department since the January 14, 2008, resignation of former sheriff Mike Carona, who is currently imprisoned for tampering with a witness during a corruption probe.
Before her appointment, she retired from the position of division chief within the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. In June 2010, she was elected to her first full term as sheriff.
Hutchens was raised in Long Beach, where she graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School. Shortly after that, she was hired as a secretary for the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department. She graduated from the Academy in 1978.
She is also a graduate of the University of La Verne, with a degree in public administration, and the FBI Academy.
Hutchens' husband, Larry, is a retired assistant police chief for the Los Angeles Unified School District.
-- City News Service contributed to this report.