Monday, June 11, 2018


Cancer is often a disease that lasts a long time. Unfortunately, this is my reality.  When I think back on this, I can't believe it has been over six years since my first diagnosis. I have learned to live with cancer and all that it entails. It has become a part of my every day life. I am a cancer patient. But I like to think that cancer doesn't have me. Yes it has driven my schedule as of late. And that is the odd part. Every plan my family makes needs to be scheduled around treatment days and the following sick days. Even when I finish these rounds of the "hard" chemo, I will still go back to my regular meds, my infusion of Herceptin,every three weeks. IT will still be driving my schedule.

So, how is this treatment?? Treatment so far is going as expected, so I am told. I have had 3/6 rounds. I am half way through. I receive Taxotere, carboplatin, herceptin, perjeta and a steroid dexamethosone. All these meds come with some pretty fun side effects...NOT! Treatment day I feel ok- tired but still normal. Day 2- headache, but can still function. I do come home with an on body injector of Neulasta, a med to help boost my blood cell count (it works!) I take it off 27 hrs after they put it on and meds are done.  Day 3- feeling worse vomiting, etc. I will skip details. .Day 4-7- just feel bleh, bleh, bleh. I never knew true fatigue and nausea until now.  It is a lot like morning sickness, but worse. Some days it is hard to function at all. I just want to crawl in my bed and sleep. And I have. And I have cried and asked why???  Also, my hands and lips are a bit numb on days 3-7 and one med makes me a bit dizzy. I can't taste food; my tastebuds are like when you burn your tongue on a hot latte! I have lost my hair and wear my wig out and about. But again, I live with it and know this too shall pass. And, it does! A week after I am beginning to feel normal again and can function. It is so weird how the body works. I have been able to go back to work after a week and function pretty normally, except for the fatigue that comes in the evening. No doubt because I work with 6 and 7 year olds all day. (They are busy!) But I love what I do and know that I need them as much as they need me. I do wear my wig to work. I am not ready for them to see me without hair.

People say to me"You are so strong.", "I admire your strength." etc. I have a hard time looking at it like this. I have difficulty thinking that I am stronger than someone else. Strong just is. I do what I have to do. Is there any other choice? I also refuse to give up. Don't get me wrong, the idea does cross my mind. Through this treatment I have had my moments where I feel like I just can't do it. I have cried. I have not wanted to get out of bed. But I do. I guess that is strength. But I am also willing to show my fear.

So, what is strong? I lost my aunt to leukemia yesterday. She was STRONG! She was a strong woman all her life. She was a true matriarch of her family. I was lucky enough to have her live behind me. She was like another mom to me. Losing her has brought on many emotions. It is hard to be going through this and have someone else lose their battle; especially someone you love so much. I know she was strong. She persevered through it all. I went and visited her last week. She wasn't ready to give in. She was still strong; bantering with us, putting my Uncle Jerry in his place when he said something silly to the dr. I am lucky to have been surrounded by many strong women. It is from them I draw my strength I guess.

My son had a classmate lose him mom just weeks ago to breast cancer. She was 42. I wish I had answers to why this happens. This mom was STRONG too! But it does make you think, why am I more worthy of life? There is no reason. I still like to believe it is what it is. And I know that I have a support system that is so great that nothing will stop me.

However, I must be honest, even amidst a loving family or a wonderful support system, cancer is lonely. Very lonely. No matter how strong and deep your support system, cancer is a journey that is taken alone. A journey I never wanted to take in the first place. But I also know that I can not go it alone and my support system means EVERYTHING to me! I feel the prayers and LOVE! And I know it is working!

So I am I strong?? Yes. I have strength. I gain this from family, friends, my entire support system and my faith. A favorite verse comes from Isaiah 40:31 "But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will not be faint."

Thank you all for taking this journey with me and being my strength when I do feel weak. I love you all!

Me and wig!

(But you won't see me out like this!)

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The World Turned Upside Down......again

Over spring break Ally and I went to see Hamilton. It was AMAZING! Now I can't stop listening to the soundtrack and singing every song in my head. The one in my head tonight is "Yorktown." (The World Turned Upside Down) And my world has turned upside down today. Because here I go again with a big battle. But in this scenario, I must be Hercules Mulligan because when you knock me down, I get the f**k back up again!

I went to meet my team today to hear what the next steps would be. First let me say, the PET scan did show that the new cancer has not spread. Good news! Really it is. 6 years ago I was told that my PET scan lit up like a Christmas tree. My cancer had spread through my whole body. So to hear this cancer was in one spot felt like a real win. My original cancer was stage 4. This cancer is stage 2. 

Preliminary talks with my oncologist led me to believe that we were going to talk today about possible surgery..a lumpectomy. However, I got way more information than I was prepared for. Nick and I were at OHSU for 6 hours! 6! We met with a surgeon (Dr. Pomier). Same surgeon as first time around. It was like a little reunion. I don't recommend these reunions. We met with radiologist, nurses and my oncologist. Lots of meetings and lots of information
My new cancer appears to be a clone of my original cancer.  It is growing in the same breast.  However some of the markings are different. They are both breast cancer. Both cancers are Her2 positive. (HER2-positive breast cancer is a breast cancer that tests positive for a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2), which promotes the growth of cancer cells.) Anyway, the difference is my first cancer was estrogen receptor positive.  This one is negative for estrogen. Which in a strange way is good because it means that my endocrine or hormone therapy treatment is working and blocking the estrogen cells that fed my previous cancer. That one isn't growing. 

But now for today's surprise.  This new cancer needs to be targeted differently.  So, essentially,  I need to fight 2 cancers at the same time.  

Here is where my world turned upside down. I am in for some hard therapy.  On April 26th I will begin 6 rounds of an intense chemotherapy. Still one day every 3 weeks. But will have 4 drugs delivered. Not the one...or 2 if you count my pills. That will be until August. Then surgery. Then radiation. 

It will be tough. Things will change.  I will change. This is going to be a very different experience than the last 6 years. 

I am still figuring out particulars. That will come and I dont need to figure it out right away. I plan on working some, but taking off the hardest days. It is going to be quite the summer. I will keep you updated. 

Thank you my tribe. Thank you for your love, prayers and support. It means more than you will ever know.

Madonna    (Caution some foul language)

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Living Life with Cancer

I stumbled upon my blog again because of a Facebook memory. It has been very cathartic re-reading my posts about my journey at the beginning. I am now six years in and I can say I forgot about many of those feelings. I guess it's a lot like child birth, we forget the pain, but remember the joy. And yes there has been joy.
I started this blog 6 years ago to give me an avenue to share my story. I was good about sharing and then there became not us much to share.....until the last couple of weeks.

On March 19th I went in for my routine CT scan. No big deal. I have had many over the years. It has all become routine. Well, this one had different results. For the first time in almost 6 years,  I did not get a positive result. I have a new 1.5 cm mass that had formed. Why? We don't know. There is so much you can speculate on. So many questions that can circle in my head. Should I have stopped the other medication? Is that why it is back? Should I have done this? That? Why didnt I do this??? Then you tell yourself to STOP! It is what it is. I can't go back and change anything. Everything that was done in my treatment was done because it was right for that moment.

I think deep down I knew that this could come back at some point. I was stage 4, 6 years ago. I killed that cancer. I have already beat so many odds. And now I will again!

Last week, I had a biopsy done and it was confirmed that it is the same cancer. Invasive ductal carcinoma. Further tests will be done to determine what other "markers" there are.  It appears to be only growing in the breast. Near where the original mass was. That is all the CT scan showed. However, next week I will do the routine of 6 years ago....another PET scan to see if it us hiding in lymphnodes around my body. Possible MRI. More biopsies? But PET scan will really drive my treatment. I will meet with "my" cancer team next Thursday, April 12th to know which way we are going.

Through all of this I am "ok." I have nothing but hope that things will be ok. I have so much to fight for. My family! My kids! My job that I love! Life!  How long that will the fight be? I don't know. I have been doing this for 6 years, what's a few more.

As always, please send lots of prayers for healing and prayers for my family. The kids are older now. They understand a lot more.

Thank you my tribe! ♥♥♥

Isaiah 41:10   "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


Scanxiety is just what it sounds like. That irrational fear a cancer patient or survivor has right before a scan. Will it be ok? What will it show? Did I take all my medication on time? What will I do if it is back? My last scan was clear. Completely clear. Yesterday I had another scan. It has been six months this time since the last. I have continued with my maintenance infusions every three weeks and I still take my daily meds. But...was it working? I have been extra stressed. "They" say you need to keep that in check too.

I have to say I was a tad bit nervous going in to yesterday's scans. All those irrational fears were there. I did go by myself. But don't feel bad. I have been going to this clinic for two years now. These nurses and MA's are like family. I don't really ever feel alone when I go by myself. It is an odd comforting feeling. And my nurses can calm my fears pretty well.

 I checked in early. I have learned since the last scan that nurses in CT can't really access a port well, so I now go upstairs to hematology (my family) and have my usual nurses access it. It rarely even hurts much anymore. Just a pinch. I went back downstairs and drank my 32 oz concoction of Portland tap water and whatever else it is like a pro. After an hour of sitting in a waiting room and chatting with a nice old couple, it was my turn. Deep Breath....

As comfortable as OHSU is to me now, I still am human. I still have some scanxiety (anxiety over having a scan, if you didn't get that). There is just something about laying in a large room on a table by yourself as the table moves back and forth through a big donut while a robotic voice says, "hold your breath", "breathe," "do not swallow". You just kind of melt into another world and relax and then in ten minutes I am done. Done..and now the waiting for the results begins.

Luckily, I didn't have to wait long. Just a couple of hours later I got a call from my oncologist. Deep breath again. Answer the phone..It is Dr. Chui in his excited voice (YES!) "Ms. Underland! I couldn't wait til next week to tell you!"

Deep breath again..."Scans are clear. Still nothing there! I couldn't wait until your appointment to tell you!"
And let the breath out!

And yes my friends. I am relieved beyond belief.  God is good!

I still don't know how I went from stage 4 cancer two years ago to cancer free. Well, yes I do. Friends, Family and Faith!

I may sound like a broken wheel, but I will still continue with infusion every three weeks (Herceptin) and take my two meds at home (Femara and Tykerb).  Give me six more months and another clean scan and maybe my treatment will change. But why stop what is working?

Scanxiety?  I will probably have it again in six months when I have a scan again. But right now, I can get busy living..cancer free. Or is it living busy? Because life doesn't stop. It doesn't matter. It is life and I am CANCER FREE!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

With A Little Help From My Friends!

I am not sure what happened here. I was having a whiny day and vented on Facebook with a picture. But thank you for everything.

I won't lie. It has been hard. The fundraising at first was amazing and lasted for a long while. But I am now almost two years in to this thing called cancer.  It is hard to continue down this road. It is an expensive thing. I have insurance. It covers most of it. But there will always be bills. I will be continuing treatment this year as "maintainence." Yes, the cancer is out of me. (Praise GOD!)  But with my type and the treatment chosen, it is a long road to ensure it is out of me and won't come back. Thus, becoming very expensive. Like I have said before it is like a chronic disease.

 Having Nick and Evan both have injuries last year that included surgery and months and months of physical therapy for Evan put us over the edge. I thought things would be great with me finally getting a job. Unfortunately, things just  caught up with us. My Honda sits because it needs extensive work that just isn't in the budget. We are a one car family right now. (But we are saving money on gas!) Christmas was minimal but wonderful. I now know first hand what it is like to be "served" with papers. Unfortunately, one bill got too far behind and the collevtions company served me with garnishment papers. That is one of the most embarassing things I have ever had to go through. I felt like the world was watching and that I had a deep dark secret all at the same time. I have hidden a lot from people, continued on. Because that is what you do. But at the expense of having my financial life ruined. Don't get me wrong, we have eliminated MANY things. But for my kids, I have tried to keep some sense of normal.  I know there are people out there who are worse off. Why do you think I still give to other things?  We can sometimes get caught up in our own problems and I think that is what was happening.

Again I am still amazed what has transpired in the last twelve hours. It is humbling to say the least. No one ever wants to admit they "can't" do it. But with friends and faith I know I CAN! Thank you! Thank You! Thank You! And I think I know my next karaoke song :)

"With A Little Help From My Friends"

What would you think if I sang out of tune
Would you stand up and walk out on me?
Lend me your ears and I'll sing you a song
And I'll try not to sing out of key
Oh I get by with a little help from my friends
Mm I get high with a little help from my friends
Mm going to try with a little help from my friends

What do I do when my love is away?
(Does it worry you to be alone?)
How do I feel by the end of the day?
(Are you sad because you're on your own?)
No I get by with a little help from my friends
Mm I get high with a little help from my friends
Mm going to try with a little help from my friends

(Do you need anybody?)
I need somebody to love
(Could it be anybody?)
I want somebody to love

(Would you believe in a love at first sight?)
Yes I'm certain that it happens all the time
(What do you see when you turn out the light?)
I can't tell you, but I know it's mine
Oh I get by with a little help from my friends
Mm I get high with a little help from my friends
Oh I'm going to try with a little help from my friends

(Do you need anybody?)
I just need somebody to love
(Could it be anybody?)
I want somebody to love

Oh I get by with a little help from my friends
Mm going to try with a little help from my friends
Oh I get high with a little help from my friends
Yes I get by with a little help from my friends
With a little help from my friends

Friday, October 18, 2013

Pink is a color of Fall!

I have always loved fall. I love the crisp air. I love sunny fall days. I love the fall colors of red, orange, yellow, brown and pink! It is October. You know what that means.....fall, football, and Breast Cancer Awareness Month! I love pink in the fall. Sure it has taken away from decorating for Halloween a bit, but I will take it. Pink is my new favorite color and October is the month to celebrate that.

 This year I feel so much more at peace with this. Last year, I think I was still a bit reluctant to participate as a Survivor. I was still in the beginning..well 6 months treatment. But now, with my diagnosis of no evidence of active cancer I feel that I want to let everyont know that it is Breast Cancer Awareness month! I am still here! I am still fighting! and I am a SURVIVOR! 

Next week, I have another scan to see how things are again. Am I nervous? Maybe a bit. But not as nervous as I have been before. But why wouldn't I be nervous? There is always that little bit of wonder when you go in. It is human nature I think to have a little self doubt. But I just tell myself that it is all good! It has to be. And besides I have conferences at the end of next week to take my mind off it. It is all in a day's life for me. Get up...take my cancer pills...go teach kindergarten...take my kids to soccer....make dinner....go to bed...wake up and do it all over again. That is my life. And then every three weeks I go have my infusion of Herceptin. It is a bit odd I will admit. I park at the end of where I take my students to the busses. Walk across the street to where I park on those Fridays and leave to go enter another world. The cancer, infusion world. I have to say, so far it has been welcomed. It is nice to just sit for that hour and relax. I bet that is a first. Someone thinking that an infusion is relaxing. But it is. I am forced to sit and put my feet up. Last week I had a cold so I got an isolated room with a bed. I laid back and enjoyed the quiet. Because just and hour before that I had been getting 24 kindergarteners packed up and out the door! But again..It is what it is! It is life. Yes, sometimes it is a struggle to know that I am still sick on the inside but looking fine on the outside. But mostly, it just makes me grateful and lucky that I can celebrate and walk around as a survivor.

Well, I just wanted to update a bit. Most of you follow me on facebook too so you know what is going on. But for those of you I don't see on facebook.... I am doing well. I am awake. I am alive and I am if someone could just pay my bills it may truly feel like heaven.
Hope your day is great , Thanks for spending it with me :)
DJ Danny DwyerThat about sums it up!

 Portrait of me from a student! Pink of course!

IMAG1217.jpgStill rocking the pink tutu!


 Still my reality every three weeks! But I still fight!

 And a Pink Ribbon for Breast Cancer Awareness month!

Monday, May 20, 2013

No Evidence of Active Cancer......But......

Why is it that each day seems to pass slowly, but when you look back you can't help but ask "Where has the time gone?"

 February 6, 2012 was one of the worst days of my life. "You have cancer."

 But, April 29, 2013 was one of the best.."No evidence of active cancer." Words really can't express how you feel when you hear that. I was actually a bit numb and at a loss for words..yep, I did not know what to say. Especially since I knew what was coming next. "Treatment isn't over"

That is one of the misconceptions with cancer. Just because the cancer is not active at this time, we don't stop treatment. And for me, and my type of cancer, means we don't stop treatment for quite awhile. In fact, we don't have an end date. We are in the maintenance phase. We don't stop doing what's working. We don't want those cells to grow back. In fact, I am writing this on my phone as I sit in the treatment chair.

 It is a whole different mind set at this time. Mostly, I do get a little ticked off. Especially since the outrageous bills keep rolling in. That is what pisses me off the most. Bill after bill. And some of the people aren't very nice when I call to make arrangements for payment. I am so grateful for all donated in the beginning. It kept us going. But with my medical bills, Nicks ACL surgery and now Evans injury, it is more than I can take sometimes. And we have insurance, I can hardly stand to think what it would be if we didn't. And of course we are middle class so the availability of aid is non-existant. And we know what teachers make, let alone a substitute. I don't have sick days to take. If I don't work I don't get paid. But enough of that.

 So, although I am elated that I have so far kicked cancer's a$$, It is bittersweet because treatment continues. But I will choose this, and all the side effects that come with it (the sores in my nose are the worst) because I choose life. But what I do know is that it is the cost that makes me more discouraged than anything. But I will do what I will continue to do, trust in the Lord. Trust that everything, including finances, will work out. So, I will just continue to repeat my favorite verse and all will be okay! "I am not alone for the Lord is with me." John 16:32