McKinney couple overwhelmed by Aggie spirit

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by TERESA WOODARD

WFAA

Posted on September 17, 2013 at 3:53 PM

McKINNEY — They're back in McKinney after what was one of the best weekends ever.

"Next to the day I married Shannon, it was the best day of my life," said Clay Underwood, with his arm around his wife. She shook her head in agreement.

"It was just magical," she said.

And it was uplifting. And invigorating.

And unplanned.

"I don't even know how I didn't find out about this, that's what's so crazy!" Shannon said, shaking her head.

Her hair, so much shorter than the day she got married, is the only clue that something might be wrong. Shannon Underwood, 34, is battling for her life, and her husband is right beside her.

Shannon has Hodgkins lymphoma. It is cancer. And even after a transplant of her own stem cells and a bone marrow transplant from her sister, the cancer is back for the fourth time in three years.

The bad news came in July.

They had been talking about taking a trip to their alma mater, Texas A&M, just to tailgate. They didn't have tickets, but they wanted to be a part of the game day atmosphere, thinking it might be good therapy.

Clay graduated from A&M in 1997 and Shannon in 2001. They didn't meet until both had moved back to the Dallas area after college. He noticed her Aggie ring in a restaurant and they struck up a conversation.

Shannon underwent a chemo treatment a couple of weeks ago, but regained enough strength to make the road trip to College Station. All she wanted to do was tailgate at the Alabama game, possibly the biggest in school history.

"I didn't care if I was sitting in a parking lot or in a restaurant somewhere, I just needed to be a part of it," she said. "Life is now; you live every single moment to the fullest you possibly can. For me, it fills my heart with joy to be in my favorite college town in the entire nation. It's where most of my memories, the best memories of my life are — in College Station."

Those memories are even better now, thanks to a single post on a Aggie alumni Website.

One of Clay's friends, Scott Harris, asked where Shannon and Clay should tailgate. Then fellow Aggie Randy Taylor, a stranger to the Underwoods, saw the post and started drumming up interest.

Soon, Aggies did what Aggies do.

At the tailgate, Shannon was pulled aside, and was startled when a crowd gathered around her and people had their cell phones out to take pictures and video. Then she was almost speechless when Taylor presented them with tickets, sideline passes, a shopping spree, dinner, and a huge check.

Mostly Aggies, but people from universities across Texas and the U.S. made donations.

Within hours, $12,000 had come in, and the total is still rising.

And it couldn't have come at a better time.

Because of the cancer, Shannon recently had to resign from her position as a French teacher in the Carrollton-Farmers Branch school district.

"They don't have a clue how much they've really helped us," Shannon said. "This really is what '12th Man' is — holding up a fellow Aggie when they can't hold themselves. Aggies take care of their own, they really do."

The Underwoods call the people behind this effort their angels.

"For eight to 10 hours, we didn't think about cancer," Clay said.

They're thinking about it again now, but maybe in a different way. Doctors tell Shannon she has a 30 percent chance of surviving this. But she's keeping the faith that Aggies recently restored.

"I can't give up," she said. "There are too many people fighting on my behalf. They really helped me in the mental fight."

E-mail twoodard@wfaa.com

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