Archive for January, 2013

Update on Anna’s Post-Surgery Progress

Anna returned home last Wednesday (16 January). She’s feeling pretty good. She complains more about the itching than the pain. Anna did have to return to the hospital on Friday (18 January) because the needle that the doctors had put under her arm to collect the seroma fluid fell out. Seroma is a fluid that collects in the areas where the lymph nodes have been removed. Removal of this fluid is done for the patients comfort.

While at the hospital I also went to see a doctor about the pain I’ve had in my right elbow since July. I’ve been putting it off, because of Anna. The diagnosis is tennis elbow. Recommended treatment: Don’t use your right arm. Easier said than done; however, I’m currently wearing a brace which helps to remind me not to use my right hand/arm as much as I used to. Sadly, the doctor would like me not to use the computer for the next two months. I just smiled and said, “Sure.” Obviously with the all the writing I have to do this winter break, not using the computer is simply not an option.

Anna returned to the hospital this morning to hear the result of the lab analysis of the tissue removed during her surgery. The lab analysis found that five of the lymph nodes that doctors removed had cancer the others did not. So metastasis was fairly wide spread. Reduction on the main tumor because of the initial chemo was extremely significant. (There was a cluster of about nine smaller nodules). Before the initial chemo treatment Anna’s main tumor was nearly 5 cm in diameter. After the initial chemo, it was reduced to 1.2 cm. This bodes well for the effectiveness of her post-surgery chemo. The chemo regiment that her doctors have been using has obviously been quite effective on Anna’s cancer.

Anna’s next chemo session is next Thursday (24 January). Sadly, the hair that has been starting to grow back will once again disappear. She will have another three sessions and then her doctors will again re-assess the situations in terms of blood toxicity. As before, I suspect that Dr. Lee will push her to the edge of her endurance.

Monday, January 21st, 2013

Surgery Update

Anna’s surgery was a success, and here’s how it went:

This morning, I got a text message from the hospital at 7:59 am which informed that Anna had gone into surgery. The actual message said:

노지숙님 수술 시작합니다. 최선을 다하겠습니다.

This roughly translates as:

Roh Jisook’s surgery has started. We will do her well.

If the latter part of the message seems a bit creepy, blame the translator. I’m sure it’s an idiomatic expression and the meaning that it conveys is completely different from what the message seems to suggest in English (or at least I hope so!)

I was already awake and having a cup of coffee when the message arrived. BoA and Noah were still sleeping. I woke them about 30 minutes later after I had showered. I fed them breakfast and then we got ready to go to the hospital.

Around one in the morning, (I guess she couldn’t sleep) Anna sent a long text message that consisted of an itemized list of what she wanted us to bring. BoA and I did our best to find the requested items such as a hot pack, mandarin oranges, and a pillow.

We started off to the hospital around 10 and arrived by 11. Anna told us to go to the surgical theater on the third floor. When we got there we quickly learned that there were 3 surgical theaters on the third floor each with multiple operating rooms. After scouting around we not only located Anna’s surgical theater and her name promptly displayed on a TV screen but we also ran into a couple of Anna’s friends, 젤뚜루다 and 경아.  젤뚜루다 is a women who we originally met in Samcheok on the East Sea;  Samcheok is the place we’ve gone every summer since 2004 but we did not go this summer because of Anna’s breast cancer, so젤뚜루다 came to see Anna.  경아 is someone we have known since 2005 when we used to live at Woobang Apt.

At 12:50 pm I received another text message this one saying that Anna’s surgery was finished. The TV screen was updated a few minutes later. I kind of liked the fact that my phone got a message before the TV was updated.

Anna, however, wasn’t wheeled out of the operating theater for another 45 minutes, because they took her to a recovery area where they could observe her until the  anesthesia wore off.

Then at 1:35 pm Anna was wheeled out and when I asked her how she felt, she smiled and said, “I feel good! It doesn’t even feel like I got surgery!” Her eyes were completely dilated, she wore a big shining smile, her words were also a bit slurred and she giggled. (Anna doesn’t giggle).

I looked at her and I said, “I bet you do. The drugs they got you on would make anything feel wonderful.”

We followed the nurse and the attendant up to Anna’s room on the sixth floor (room 77 for those of you keeping score at home) and stuck around for about an hour. That’s when the nurse kind of shooed us off. We were actually getting ready to leave anyway, because I didn’t want Noah to miss his Taekwondo class. He’s been acting up lately, so I’d like to disrupt his schedule as little as possible while Anna is in the hospital.

Here are a couple of pictures. Anna after the surgery:












Noah getting ready for Taekwondo:


Thursday, January 10th, 2013

New Years 2013 Update

Happy New Years everyone from a very cold Seoul (link).  In the 15 years I’ve been in Korea, today was the coldest day I’ve seen.  The newspapers reports that it’s the coldest day since 1986. Not surprisingly, the pipe to our hot water heater is frozen. We have water, but just no hot water. Anna says she has coupons to the local sauna, so I guess I know where I’ll be having my shower later. I just couldn’t step under the flow of frigid water this morning. I didn’t have heart or the body heat to do it.

I been too busy to write.  There was grading, practicum and the general bustle and paperwork that comes with finishing up semester as well as a couple of holidays, the associated parties and gatherings. But I’ve decided to make some time for writing today.

I guess the big news that everyone will be wanting to hear is how Anna’s meeting with her lead doctor went last Monday (Dec 31st). Anna met with Dr. Lee and he has scheduled her surgery for January 10th. Anna will enter the hospital on the 9th for prep, because she’ll be having surgery in the morning and they want to control what she eats and  drinks.   Anna learned that her last batch of chemo was cut short because her blood toxicity was too high. The chemo regiment she was on can do serious damage to your heart, liver and kidneys if the toxicity level in the blood gets too high.

Dr. Lee praised Anna on her ability to tough it out. The basic concept behind is: Chemo therapy is really toxic, so hopefully we can kill the cancer before we kill the patient.  Dr. Lee pushed it to the limit literally with Anna.  The main tumor which was almost 5 cm has been reduce to less than 1.7 cm. Dr Lee was quite please with the amount of reduction. The metastasized nodules in her lymph nodes are also significantly reduced, but there was still one nodule that had a significant amount of mass and seemed to be very active. Dr Lee will therefore be targeting the main tumor and the surrounding tissue and the area troublesome area of the lymph system that didn’t respond well to the initial treatment.

Following surgery Anna will get more chemo as well as radiological and hormonal  treatments. Dr Lee didn’t elaborate on the extent or the time frame for these treatments. He is very much a one-step-at-a-time kind of guy.

In other news. Andy (승현) is of with his fellow graduates to celebrate the New Year and to celebrate their completion of elementary school. He joined his mates at Daejeon O-World. They had been talking about going to a ski resort, but the sub-zero temperatures seemed to have altered these plans. O-World is an indoor amusement park.

BoA has decided to try her hand at guitar, so she is taking some guitar lessons this winter break. Anna also found her a math tutor so she’ll be getting some math lessons, too. BoA, as you can imagine, is especailly excited about the latter.  I’m planning on taking her to “What The Book” in Itaewon to help her select some winter reading material. I need to work on her English. It certainly hasn’t improved in the last year and it may even be a little rusty due to lack of use.

Noah is on break from both his daycare and Taekwondo lessons. He has decided that WAR is his favorite card game. We played WAR for about one and a half to two hours yesterday. Don’t tell Noah this, but it is a mind-numbingly boring game. I kept trying to rig my cards so that I could lose faster, but even cheating didn’t seem to help. There always seemed to be one more card and then no matter what I would do, I would inevitably go on a run and pick up another 12 cards…I’m gonna have nightmares about this. I think I’d rather push a rock up a hill in Hades like Sisyphus than play two hours of WAR.

I’ve still got practicum to finish up before I am officially on break. I have a session tonight (Friday from 6:30 to 10:00) and my final batch of practice teaching observations tomorrow (Saturday). Then I am free except for the two orientation session I have to run for incoming students in January and February. Of course, free is a relative term. I am free of teaching and the the day-to-day business of maintaining those classes, but I still have a couple of “projects” to finish up. In terms of getting a promotion and pay raise, the project that will keep me most busy is the completion of the article I plan to submit to an SSCI journal. I also need to tinker with my course packets. Some feedback from students said that the course packet seemed out-of-date. Sadly I am not sure what they mean by out-of-date. I’m thinking that instead of finding new content, (much of which are core concepts that have remained fairly constant over the last 30 years), I will try a new layout and font and see if this solves the problem. I even plan to use some former students as a focus group. “Which of these looks more up-to-date, exhibit A or exhibit B?”   Anyone who knows Korea, knows that packaging is important.




Friday, January 4th, 2013