Loretta Baylos radiates health and vigor.
The wife of veteran La Habra PD Sgt. Jeff Baylos is healthy, having been cancer free for 2 ½ years.
But daily, Loretta still weathers lower back and stomach pain from a radical hysterectomy she underwent in August 2014 after being diagnosed with an early-stage (1b1) but aggressive form of cervical cancer — the second leading cause of cancer in women, after breast cancer.
Baylos hopes other women don’t have to experience what she went through.
And she prays that fewer women will die from a disease in which early detection is critical.
“We’re losing women in silence…it’s an epidemic,” Baylos said. “They are crying out and dying in agony, and very few people are listening. Some of these girls when they get diagnosed with cervical cancer die very soon afterwards.”
Behind the Badge OC profiled Baylos and her husband two years ago after they purchased teal ribbon magnets that La Habra PD Chief Jerry Price allowed to be displayed on the agency’s entire fleet of police vehicles during January, national Cervical Health Awareness Month.
Two years later, the La Habra Police Department continues to support awareness with the teal ribbons on each patrol unit and Loretta Baylos remains a tireless advocate for cervical cancer awareness. Although the second leading cause of cancer in women, cervical cancer still is widely regarded as an afterthought. It usually is caused by HPV viruses.
Baylos continues to urge women to educate themselves about HPV-related cervical cancer and to get vaccinated against HPV, as well as to undergo regular screenings for the virus.
HPV is transmitted through sexual contact and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is the most common sexually transmitted infection. More than 10,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with HPV-related cervical cancer each year, but the disease is virtually always preventable with vaccination and appropriate screening (Pap and HPV tests), the CDC says.
More than 4,120 women die in the U.S. from cervical cancer, according to cancer.net. When detected at an early stage, the five-year survival rate for women with invasive cervical cancer is 92 percent.
MAGNETS ON VEHICLES
Once again this January, the LHPD outfitted its vehicles with the teal-and-white ribbon magnets.
“This is a good cause,” Price said. “The issue really hit home for us because it touched one of our own. The teal ribbon magnets are a great way for us to raise awareness, and the campaign has been really well received by the public. I think if the ribbons motivate someone to get screened or help others to recognize the prevalence of this cancer, we have accomplished something.”
Two years ago, Melissa Myers was on social media when she saw a picture of an LHPD vehicle with the cervical cancer awareness magnet.
Myers, who lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, was so impressed she phoned the LHPD.
“I think it’s more than cool you guys are doing this,” Myers said in a recorded message. “Kudos to you, you are the best….much love to you guys.”
At the time, Myers had stage 3b cervical cancer.
Myers now has stage 4b HPV-related cervical cancer that has metastasized to her neck, collarbone, esophagus, lungs, bladder and elsewhere.
“She (Baylos) does great work,” said Myers, 45, a single mother of five boys who range in age from 16 to 25.
Myers, a former elementary school teacher’s aide who went on disability in 2013, is scheduled to undergo a second round of chemotherapy later this month, followed by immunotherapy.
“My first round of chemotherapy almost killed me,” Myers said.
In September 2013, doctors found a softball-size tumor on Myers’ cervix.
In 2014, she was given a year to live.
Myers beat the odds, but her cancer returned and metastasized in 2015.
Myers is hopeful she can beat the odds again.
“We need to remove the stigma associated with cervical cancer,” she said.
That’s where Loretta and her husband, a watch commander and field sergeant with 30 years in at the LHPD, come in.
In addition to the police vehicle magnets and teal-and-white wristbands she hands out, Loretta speaks about her experience with HPV-related cervical cancer to such groups as the American Cancer Society.
She and her husband, who between them have six children ranging in age from 13 to 32, agree the issue needs to be brought further to the forefront.
“We’re at the point now where we need to talk about this more,” Jeff Baylos said. “We’re trying to get other PDs on board with this.”
Loretta gets a checkup every three months to make sure her cancer has not returned.
She stresses the importance for women to get annual Pap and HPV tests to make sure they don’t get cervical cancer — or that they catch it in the early stages.
Some of the surgeries women have to endure when they have a reoccurrence from cervical cancer are very invasive and harrowing.
“I don’t want any woman to have to go through that,” Baylos said.
She may be cancer free now, but Baylos lives with anxiety daily.
“That fear never goes away,” she said.
For more information, visit TealLadiesMoveMountains.com