PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — A veteran leader with the Peoria County Sheriff’s Office is retiring in August to focus on her health and family in the wake of a terminal cancer diagnosis.

Corrections Undersheriff Ronda Guyton is the first hired and only commissioned African American woman to work at the Peoria County Sheriff’s Office. She has been with the office for 28 years.

“My entire adult life, I’ve been here at the Sheriff’s Department,” said Guyton. “It’s sad because it wasn’t something I planned on doing. But life gives you curveballs, and you just got to roll with it.”

Guyton was first diagnosed with stage 0 breast cancer in 2012. She beat it by undergoing a double mastectomy. But in November 2021, the cancer came back with a vengeance. This time, doctors told Guyton she had stage 4 metastatic breast cancer.

“I was in shock because I was coming up on my 10-year anniversary… This time it was harder to digest because there is no cure,” she said.

Guyton decided to leave the Sheriff’s Office behind, and focus on what matters most.

“I’m going to spend it with my family, I’m going to spend it continuing to do nonprofit work and serve on boards, and just live my best life,” she said.

Captain James Middlemas worked with Guyton for more than 18 years. He said Guyton’s life experiences of growing up in poverty and being a teen mom, gave her a unique perspective in the field.

“Working with Ronda was always a learning experience… She had a different way about her. She had a way of communicating with people that was different than what you learn at the academy,” he said.

He said he is moved by Guyton’s involvement with the community. She serves on multiple boards, including YMCA, African American Hall of Fame and Livingston Legacy Scholarship.

Guyton said her future plans involve traveling, continuing to serve on boards, and furthering the mission of her nonprofit, Living to Serve Foundation.

Guyton founded the Living to Serve Foundation when she was first diagnosed in 2012. The mission of the organization is to increase awareness of women’s health by providing programming, resources and education.

“I realized that there are so many minority women that are still dying at higher rates than any other ethnic group… I wanted them to see someone that looks like them and take them on the journey with me,” she explained.

A self-admitted travel addict, Guyton also owns an eponymous travel agency that specializes in group trips. Guyton said she is going on a 30-person trip to St. Lucia to celebrate her retirement and 50th birthday. She also plans to ring in the New Year in Egypt.