Somer Miller keeps her chin up

Published 3:52 pm Friday, February 25, 2011

By SANDRA THAMES / Community Columnist

As a youngster growing up between Montevallo and Jemison, Somer Miller and her brother spent summer vacations in Panama City, Fla. at the Miracle Strip. Lots of great family trips and memories were shared in their pop-up camper.

After graduating from Jemison High in 1993, Somer attended the University of Montevallo. Her dream had always been to work with children, and for a short time she considered social work. Quickly changing to education, she found her niche and dream —seeing the face of a child who is growing in confidence by learning.

Somer met her husband-to-be, Leo Miller, when she went to Troy to watch her brother perform in a band.

Miller plays bass guitar, her brother drums and her dad lead guitar. Miller also oil paints and bakes gorgeous cakes.

In 1997 was graduation and marriage. Somer Miller was hired at Creekview Elementary School.

In 2002 Somer and Leo took a vacation to Disney World and it was there, seeing so many children’s faces aglow with excitement, that they agreed to try to start a family of their own.

On March 17, 2003, daughter Lily Claire was born. Perfect and beautiful from day one, the Millers felt on top of the world.

A year later there was a party for baby Lily, but Miller had her mind on a lump she discovered in her left armpit. Six days later, life shifted gears.

A young doctor recommended a lumpectomy, which gave Miller only a week to wean Lily to a sippy cup.

On April 1 the lumpectomy was performed. When she saw her husband’s red eyes, tears in her surgeon’s eyes and her three best friends from work, it was she who said “I’m going to be fine. Y’all need to stop crying because I’m going to beat this. I’m going to be fine!”

Creekview Elementary School teacher Somer Miller has been teaching second-graders since the late 1990s, and has overcome life-threatening diseases over the past several years. (Special/Sandra Thames)

Miller kept her chin up and prepared for war. April 9 was port placement, then chemo right away, radiation in August and September 2004 and finally surgery in October of 2004. Between April 2004 and August 2004 Miller lost her hair and was so sick. She said “only my sister survivors understand the many facets of the word ‘nausea.’”

In November 2004, Miller fought a staph infection. Good thing she had opted for no transplants. After that came arthritis, fibromyalgia and GERD. For some time, Miller took IgG antibody molecule infusions.

After landing in the emergency room, IgG treatment was stopped. Just dealing with “old folks ailments” is bad enough, then adding all the psychological issues involving scars makes for a tough ride.

Since breast cancer had already stricken Miller’s mom, Miller decided to have a total hysterectomy.

Her ability to live and raise Lily meant more to her than breasts and baby-making equipment.

This is an abbreviated glimpse of Somer Shirley Miller’s survival.

She has gone from a 28-year-old new mom to a 35-year-old with each day presenting new problems. She is back at Creekview loving her second-graders and having that love returned unconditionally.

“I love life and am thankful to be here to laugh and love,” she said.

Community columnist Sandra Thames can be reached by e–mail at