‘I would like a second opinion’: Sometimes a little follow-up can save your life

October 15, 2021
By T Michele Walker

This is part III in a breast cancer series for October, breast cancer awareness month.

There is probably no moment for any person more terrifying than learning that you have cancer. But when faced with a life-changing cancer diagnosis, the more information you can gather, the better.

For Cheryl Miller, owner of a shop in Boca Grande called Made to Inspire, a second opinion saved her life.

“I felt a lump in my breast, and went to the doctors,” began Cheryl. “she said to have a mammogram. The gentleman that I would go to for mammograms, he was 80 years old, he was the sweetest man in the world.”

The result was that Cheryl had cancer in her left breast.

“The first surgeon I went to told me that the left breast was positive and the right one showed negative. He said to just leave the right one alone and to take care of the left breast.”

Something seemed off to Cheryl, and she went for a second opinion.

“So I went to another doctor, and he agreed with me. He said, ‘Negative or not, we’re getting it out of here.’ When they did take it out, it was cancer, but a different kind of cancer than the one in the left breast. It’s hard to believe that the first doctor wanted to leave it alone for five years.”

Cheryl had radiation but didn’t have a high enough mark for chemotherapy. “I was very grateful for that, but the radiation was a bit of a pain in the butt. You have to go every day.”

Despite how critical a second opinion can be, plenty of patients don’t seek one out. In fact, according to a 2017 study, 90 percent of newly diagnosed breast cancer patients (out of nearly 2,000) didn’t get a second opinion.

Some patients feel pressured to start treatment right away and don’t want to stall. Others are afraid that seeking advice from another doctor might offend their current physician and impact their relationship moving forward.

The truth is all good physicians encourage second opinions. Nothing should stand in your way of receiving care that provides you with the greatest chance of success. A second opinion and following your instincts can help you on the road to recovery.

Because Cheryl sought a second opinion and listened to her instincts, she is now cancer-free for ten years.

And with a new lease on life, Cheryl decided it was time for a change in career. A successful Master Electrician for over 30 years, Cheryl sold her business with plans of moving to Boca Grande, but life took another turn.

Cheryl’s precious granddaughter Isla had health problems. “We faced challenges for a few years, but now things are going well. I collected shells and had 10,000 of them sitting around. My daughter came to me and handed me a mirror and said, ‘Why don’t you make something for your granddaughter Isla?’ I gave it a shot and that’s how this whole business, ‘Made to Inspire’ happened.”

Cheryl’s husband and their dog Blue are in on the act. Blue stands guard and greets customers and Cheryl’s husband makes the coral lamps that are sold in the store along with being a fishing guide in the Everglades.

“You struggle through it, see the light and go,” Cheryl said. “And this store has been really good for me. I never thought I had the ability to do it, but it has brought about a lot of joy for me. I call my work ‘C.D. Hardy Originals’ for my dad. He didn’t get to see too much of my work, so I did this for him.”