Ocean Colony resident Cheri Livingston is working to expand The Second Opinion, a San Francisco nonprofit through which people diagnosed with cancer can meet with a panel of doctors to review their diagnoses and treatment options for free.  

While the organization started working with doctor-referred patients who had extremely complex cases, it now sees a variety of individuals. It’s especially valuable to people who don’t speak English and low-income patients, Livingston explained. 

“Social workers know people won’t comply with treatment because they don’t understand,” Livingston said. “We can say this will happen if you don’t comply in their language.” 

Part of Livingston’s work has been looking at ways to offer these services to people in other areas of the state. 

“It’s time to make this happen in other communities,” she said. 

Livingston didn’t start out working for nonprofits. However, after her son was born ill, she was appointed to the county’s maternal child and adolescent health board. She worked on projects related to child protective services, foster care and dental disease. 

She then left the county job to work on teen pregnancy prevention. Ten years later, she went  into the cancer field where she worked with women who had cancer or were in remission. 

Livingston used to refer them to The Second Opinion if they were struggling to make a treatment decision. 

“It’s really hard if you feel like you’re being pushed in so many ways,” she said. “You don’t want any what-ifs.” 

In addition to helping grow The Second Opinion’s donor base, Livingston sits with patients and their families to answer questions about the organization. She sees them go through the process. 

“I see people come out with relief, laughter, crying ... all sorts of emotions,” Livingston said. “It gives people comfort.” 

It can be hard for Livingston too. From her years in the cancer industry, she’s attended so many funerals it’s hard to count. Taking walks along the ocean helps her process. 

“It’s made me a stronger person,” she said. “I see the strength of people going through life-threatening illnesses.”

Livingston has seen many people and families use and benefit from The Second Opinion’s services. But at one point, she found herself seeking the doctors’ guidance when her husband was diagnosed with lung cancer. 

“We wanted to make sure we were progressing the right way,” she said. “They confirmed the track was a good one.”

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