Archive for August, 2012

Still no Anna at Home

Anna remains in the hospital because her body refuses to cooperate and her doctor, an older gentleman, errs on the said of caution.

Tuesday afternoon Anna’s fever and migraine returned and this scuttled her homecoming. It also scuttled the peach cobbler that Andy and I were going to make, because instead of baking and awaiting Anna’s return, I got to make one more delivery. This time the delivery was via the local clinic to get a new prescription for her migraine medicine and then to the drug store so I could fill that prescription. Once I had medicine in hand, I then rushed to the hospital, dropped it off and rushed back to get Noah at daycare.

Tuesday became one of those lost days. I know I lived it, but I don’t have anything to show for that living. Yesterday was by far more productive. Scott helped me find people to take my evening TESOL Professional Education Center (TPEC) classes for next semester, and I also analyzed and sorted the not on the list words for  corpus linguistic research project that Dave Leaper and I are doing. I still have about 85 more words to analyze and sort, and then when that’s done Dave can re-crunch the numbers and we can finish up our paper for the September 15th deadline.

This morning I took BoA to the dentist to get two of four cavities filled. That set me back 125,000 won. We return tomorrow to get the other two filled. Any bets on how much that’ll cost me?

After the dentist, BoA and I drove to the post office with BoA and Andy’s bedding. With Anna sick, I don’t see us driving down to their school to bring them everything they need, so we shipped it via the post office instead. In fact it’s significantly cheaper to mail it than to drive it down there yourself. It costs about 120,000 won in gas to drive down to BoA and Andy’s school and we shipped two large boxes for under 20,000 won.

On our return form the post office, BoA and I made more Dubu Jorim and we finished the peach cobbler that Andy and I started. Even though Andy was at the hospital with Anna, he gets credit for some of the work, because on Tuesday he washed, peeled, pitted and then cut all the overripe peaches from these boxes:

Our week started with the arrival of six new boxes of peaches.

 Peach Cobbler


1/2 cup butter, melted
4 cups fresh peaches – peeled, pitted and sliced
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 cup white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup milk


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2. Pour butter into the bottom of a large casserole or 9 x 13 inch pan. (or two pans of similar size)
3. In the prepared dish, toss together the peaches and 2 tablespoons sugar.
4. In a mixing bowl, combine the 1 cup sugar, salt, baking powder, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and milk.
5. Add peachers to casserole/baking pan
6. Spoon batter over the peaches.
7.Bake for 45 minutes in the preheated oven, or until top is golden brown.
8. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream

<Note: If BoA pours the melted butter into the batter, the cobbler still comes out fine; just make sure you are using no stick pans.>


BoA and I then made the batter and baked the cobbler.

Enjoying the fruits of her labor.

It’s now time for me to get Noah and then Noah and I will head to the hospital to see Anna. Andy and BoA are already there. BoA left as soon as she had consumed her cobbler.  One of her school friends, Gyu Min (규민) was there. 규민’s mother and Anna are friends, so 규민 tagged along hopping to see BoA, but she got to see her nemesis, Andy, instead.

Remember when your in 5th and 6th grade your nemesis is often the boy or girl that you most like, but shhh don’t tell Andy and 규민 that we know their secret.

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

The Delivery Man

Anna called last night. It must have been around 8:00 pm, because I had just finished with Noah in the bath.  She called to ask me to bring her migraine medicine, because the Tylenol that the nurses were giving her just wasn’t cutting it. I wasn’t too surprised, because I remembered that when we left Anna on Sunday, she had been complaining of a headache. So, my guess is it only go worse over time.

After a quick search of the places Anna keeps her meds, I found her pills. I then gave Andy and Noah instructions such as: “Andy, remember to brush Noah’s teeth before he goes to bed;” “Noah, no TV after bath time;” and to both of them “Bed time is at 9:00. Tomorrow is a school day for Noah.”

This perked Noah up because he knew that tomorrow there was a school trip to the aquarium. I then made both promise to be good. Noah promised willingly; whereas Andy promised sullenly – Ah, adolescence!

The trip to the hospital was uneventful except that the shuttle bus to the hospital had stopped running by the time I got to Hangangjin (한강진) and, of course, as soon as I started walking to the hospital the skies opened up and it began to pour. After a soggy walk, I arrived at the hospital and delivered the medicine.

Anna immediately took a pill and then she showed me her new hardware. (Really there wasn’t much to see but she seemed quite proud of it.)  Her doctor had surgically inserted some kind of tube into her shoulder so that the nurses wouldn’t have to poke, prod and bruise Anna’s arms and legs in search of arteries for their needles. This corroborates the fact that Anna will be getting lots of needles in the near future.

I didn’t stay long; only long enough for Anna to load me up with dirty clothes and other unwanted articles to lighten their load home. BoA stayed with Anna to help her home, since Anna is unsure exactly when she is to be released. I told BoA to get a cab home rather than take the subway especially if it continues to rain like it has been.

I got home a little after 10:00 pm. Noah was asleep and Andy was on the computer. Before turning in myself, I readied Noah’s lunchbox and put the leftover curry sauce and the rice in the rice cooker into the refrigerator knowing that the Delivery Man had completed his mission successfully.

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

Teaching Andy How to Make Dubu Jorim (Korean Braised Tofu)

Anna called while I was instructing Andy in how to make Dubu Jorim. She told us that she will be released form the hospital tomorrow. Her white cell count is up and her fever is gone. Hopefully some home cooking and some rest will get her back on track.

Ever vigilant, Andy watches the tofu sear.

How to cook like 승현 (Andy):

Cut the tofu/dubu block into slabs.
Let slabs dry or pat dry with a paper towel to remove excess water (Remember oil and water don’t mix, just ask 승현 if you don’t believe me).
Heat a some canola oil mixed with seseme oil in a large non-stick skillet (about a tablespoon or enough to completely cover the bottom of the pan)
Add the tofu pieces (tofu breaks easily so do it carefully)
Sear over low to medium heat until lightly golden brown (about 4 – 5 minutes each side).
Meanwhile, prepare the sauce

2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespon of teriyaki sauce
3 tablespoons vegetable or chicken broth
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon Korean red pepper flakes (gochugaru)
a dash of kampot pepper
1 teaspoon sesame seed (if you have them – we didn’t)
1 clove garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
2 scallions, finely chopped (if you have them – we didn’t)

I have also added corriander and cumin to the sauce to give it a more exotic taste
Water, lemon juice and lime juice can be used instead of broth. Using water or the juices makes the sauce less salty.  Lime and/or lemon juice tends to give the marinate a more fruity flavor.

As tofu/dubu browns, remove and set aside until all tofu/dubu is seared
Remove excess oil from frypan
Put tofu/dubu back in frypan and spoon the suace over the seared tofu/dubu
Simmer for 4 – 5 additional minutes over low/medium heat.
Flip them over and simmer for another minute or two.

Top with a garnish of chopped scallions/green onions and/or seseme seeds

Andy’s final product looked like this:

We packed it into a Lock & Lock because we will be using it as a side dish through the rest of the week.


Monday, August 20th, 2012

Anna’s Fever Broke

Anna’s fever broke on Saturday night and the boys were able to visit the hospital. We brought with us the supplies that Anna requested: Canned pineapples, fresh peaches and apples, face wash, and clothing. I was supposed to also bring 둥글레차 (Dunggeulle Cha) in a zipper lock bag. I brought some cut twigs, stems and branches that were in a zipper lock bag instead, but Anna informed me that it wasn’t what she wanted.

In my defense, I’m more of a coffee than tea kind of guy. For those of you who what to know more about Korean Tea, please follow the link.  I have included a picture of 둥글레차 (see below), but I can’t provide a picture of the tea I brought to the hospital because I ended up leaving it there. I searched for its name and image on the internet, but with no success. It doesn’t seem to be a popular kind of tea and no wonder; it truly looks like someone went outside and had at it with the dead shrub next to their house, and said, “Tah Dah…TEA.”

Dungguelle Cha

둥글레차 (Dunggeulle Cha) made from the dried root of Solomon’s seal


If Anna’s white blood cell count comes back up she will be released form the hospital in the next couple of days. The doctors, however, have postponed her next chemo session until they feel her immune system is ready for it. Once home, she will also be able to enjoy her 둥글레차.


Monday, August 20th, 2012

Weekend Update

Anna’s been in the hospital since Tuesday when her blood test showed that her white cell count was low. She has since become feverish and the doctors believe it serious enough to keep her hospitalized. Anna says that have her on medicine to fight the infection, but Anna didn’t specify if it was viral or bacterial in nature. The doctors have also asked Anna to limit her visitors, so the boys (Andy, Noah and I) have dutifully remained at home. BoA has been our representative at the hospital and is with Anna now.

Since I am house bound and responsible for all homely duties, I have endeavored to perfect that Thai-Szechuan Fusion Stir-fry Sauce that I concocted out of the ingredients that I had on hand. I have attempted to codify it  below.  The boys have deemed it sufficiently delicious enough to request it on two occasions. They are not, however, gourmands, so caveat emptor for they have puerile tastes. Nevertheless, having been raise in Korea their “spiciness” threshold is fairly high.

Spicy Thai-Szechuan Fusion Stir-Fry Sauce makes enough to serves 4-6 people.

2 Tbsp. sodium-reduced soy sauce
1 Tbsp. Kikkoman Teriyaki sauce
1 Tbsp. Balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1 Tbsp.sesame oil
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup chicken/vegetable broth
1 Tbsp. chili paste (or more to taste)
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. fresh minced ginger (or more as desired)
1 Tbsp. minced garlic Or more as desired)
1/4 tsp. green lemom grass powder
1/4 tsp. dried lemon grass powder
1/4 tsp. yellow saffron powder
1/4 tsp. Kampot pepper powder

Add corn, potato or rice starch to thicken as necessary.

Other variations are possible. For example, I have also on occasion added lemon or lime juice to the sauce and once I added the fermented maeshil (매실, 梅實) extract that Anna has in our kitchen, but the recipe above is the one that the boys have decided is best. In fact,  once the boys return from hunting the kittens in the wood pile behind our apartment complex, we will be having a fried rice made with the remains of stir-fry tonight.

This is a picture of the fried rice Andy made with the left over stir fry from last week. I can’t very well have a picture of a meal I haven’t cooked yet, could I?

Hmm, it just started to pour. I think the boys will be returning, so I best get back to the kitchen.


Saturday, August 18th, 2012

What’s going on

Yesterday was my birthday. It was also VJ-Day or as they call it in Korea: “Liberation Day.” To everyone who sent me birthday wishes via facebook and/or email, “Thank you. I really appreciate it. I’m a youthful 29 with 16 years of experience!

This was a photo I took from the ridge above the beach in 2010. We usually stay to the southern part of the beach because the northern end of the beach has a pretty strong rip tide.

This will be the first time since 2004 that we won’t be at the beach for my birthday. We usually go to Yonghwa Beach in Samcheok. Of course, there is a very good reason for this. Anna, my wife, has been diagnosed with breast cancer. We ended up celebrating my birthday in the hospital. We had the cake and the candles, Noah serenande’d me with the Birthday song, but we couldn’t lite the candles because a women next to us was on oxygen.

Anna discovered the lump about month ago. It must have been around the 16th of July. She, of course, showed it to me and I told to get it checked out. So, she went to a local clinic that gives mammograms for free. They confirmed that the lump looked suspicious and urged her to see a specialist at a local hospital. Anna scheduled an appointment at a local hospital and went to see the doctor. He determined that Anna needed a biopsy. Anna had the biopsy on July 23rd and we got the results back on July 30th.

The biopsy confirmed that Anna has an invasive ductal carcinoma, histologic grade 2/3, nuclear grade 2/3 and a metastatic carcinoma in the lymph node in her under arm. The good news is that most breast cancers are invasive ductal carcinomas, so it is treatable. With cancer, however, it is always better to catch it before it metastasizes and this is why Anna had the bone scan and full body PET/CT done. Both of those came back clean.

We went to get a second opinion from an American-trained doctor in Hannam-dong. Hannam-dong is near the UN Village and many of the Ambassadorial residences, so he is well known for handling breast cancer cases among the foreign-service community here in Seoul.

Doctor Lee, the doctor who is well known in the Ambassadorial community, had Anna do additional tests and he determined that Anna has late stage 3 breast cancer. The initial mass is over 5cm and it has metastasized to the lymph system. The spreading of the cancer into the lymph system is fairly advanced, so the doctor recommended that Anna begin chemo immediately.

Although the spread of the cancer is isolated to the lymph system, the doctor wants to treat this aggressively, hence the immediate chemo. There are several benefits to having chemo before surgery. First it may help shrink the tumor so less of the breast needs to be taken, although the doctor will probably recommend that Anna have the whole breast removed, just to be safe. Second it immediately starts the process of dealing with the metastasized cells. With cancer, it’s the spreading that is more serious than the initial tumor.

Anna started her chemo therapy last week. The chemo has really kicked Anna’s butt. It has sapped all her energy and has done quite a number on her stomach. She hasn’t vomited that often, but she has felt pretty nauseous.

Anna will receive six chemo treatments over the next six weeks. After this initial treatment, the doctor will re-assess the situation; however, the most likely outcome will be surgery to remove what remains of the initial cancerous mass sometime in October. After surgery, the doctor will again assess the situation. He will either recommend additional chemo or radiological treatment to clean up whatever cancerous materials remain.

Obviously this second assessment of Anna’s situation is more severe than the initial assessment. The doctor suspects that poor calibration of initial chest MRI and PET/CT scans generated poor data. And it is the data from which a doctor makes his/her diagnosis.

Anna returned to the hospital on the 14th of August for a blood test and the doctor has decided to keep her overnight for observation. Anna was kept for several reason. First her white blood cell count had dropped dramatically, second her nausea was worse than the doctor anticipated and she has lost 4 kg in one week of chemo. We visited Anna yesterday and they were pumping her full of both clear and colored liquids.  It was a veritable rainbow of fluids.

BoA returned from her trip to Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia the night Anna returned to the hospital. Anna’s unexpected hospitalization resulted in me being unable to go get BoA at the airport.  I had to stay with Noah. Luckily, because her school group arrived late,  her teachers had planned to stay in a hotel near the airport, so BoA was able to stay with them and then she took public transit  home the next morning.

Our phone conversation must have been pretty shocking.

BoA: “Daddy where are you?”
Me: “I’m at home.”
BoA: “Didn’t you know I was arriving today?”
Me: “Yes, but I thought Anna had Kakoa Talked your teachers.”
BoA: “Why?”
Me: “Mommy is in the hospital and I have to stay with Noah.”
BoA: “Why?”
Me: “Mommy has cancer.”
BoA: <fast and short breathes>
Me: “She’s OK, but the doctor wants to watch her.”
BoA: “Wait. I’ll call back.”

We decided to wait and tell her about Anna’s diagnosis when she got back from her trip, but we hadn’t intended that we would end up telling her over the phone as soon as she stepped off the plane.  She was aware that Anna had a biopsy, because she went with Anna to the hospital that day, but she left before we got the results back.

We’ll be heading back to the hospital again today. Anna probably won’t be released until her white cell count ticks back up enough so that she no longer at risk of infection.

Thursday, August 16th, 2012