The Buh-Buh-Backstory

The following is the text that appeared on the crowdfunding campaign that I launched to create an emergency medical fund for myself. Read more about the status of my campaign and my thoughts on the YouCaring crowdfunding community here.

If there’s anything I despise more than asking people for financial assistance, it’s people feeling sorry for me. And so it is with the utmost reluctance, yet absolute necessity, that I post this plea for support.

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a 40 year old New Yorker who has been living and working in Busan, South Korea for nearly a decade. I’m a writer and musician, and teach composition and conversation at the university level. I have also had the joy of teaching young learners, and have maintained close ties with some families whose children I have had the privilege to watch grow up. These relationships, as well as the beautiful friendships that I’ve harvested in this expatriate community, are what has kept me here for so long. I have been diagnosed with metastatic melanoma, and it is with a heavy heart that I must abruptly say goodbye to my students, my closest friends and the life that I’ve cultivated here.

I was first diagnosed with melanoma in the fall of 2010, after a mole on my knee  changed dramatically. I was very fortunate to have access to affordable, high quality health care, and quickly had the melanoma excised. One year later, a PET scan showed no signs of cancer, and I believed that I was in the clear.

Just over a year ago, I discovered a large lump on my inner thigh and, upon, removal, it was confirmed to be a metastasis of the melanoma in my lymph node. Because of the language barrier, I was given this horrible news by having a computer monitor turned towards me with the word ‘malignant’ on it.

After two surgeries, followed by six weeks of daily radiation therapy, I moved forward with the knowledge that my cancer could reappear at any time, in any part of my body. This knowledge was bestowed by my oncologist by her pointing at my knee, then my groin, then shrugging and pointing at my stomach, chest and head.

Unfortunately, she was spot on. Two weeks ago, I found a small lump in my chest, and immediately had a biopsy and CT scan. I learned this Monday that the biopsy results were positive for melanoma, and that the CT scan showed an enlarged lymph node in my lung, meaning that the cancer has progressed and needs to be treated as stage 4. This shocking news was delivered by a translator.

I cannot complain about the amazing quality of health care that I have had access to. However, I don’t know how much critical information has gotten lost in translation in the past four years, and I don’t know where I’d be right now if the language barrier hadn’t been an issue. Also, melanoma is very uncommon in Korea, so my treatment options here are much more limited. At this stage, I cannot afford to have a single word be misunderstood, nor can I settle for treatment options that may not be my best chance at survival . These are two of the biggest reasons why, at this critical junction, I have decided to return to New York to seek treatment.

The last, and most important, reason is that, while I have an incredible group of friends here, I need to be near my family now. I need my mother’s arms. I need that brand of ‘read each others’ minds’ communication that I only share with my sister.  I need to swallow my pride and allow myself to be taken care of, and I’m lucky to have a family who are eager to be my caregivers.

I have resigned from my job (which leaves me with no income going forward) and I have set the wheels in motion to go home, still unclear about what kind of insurance coverage I will be able to secure.

As a hard-working grown woman who has capably supported myself for all of my adulthood, it is very difficult for me to ask for money. I’m not sure what’s to come, but I do know that the cost of care is going to place a heavy financial burden on both myself and my family. So, I am reaching out to the You Caring community in the hopes that your generosity will lessen that burden, and allow us to focus on fighting this battle head on.


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2 Responses to The Buh-Buh-Backstory

  1. So sorry to hear all of this! But there are some great treatments available to us stage 4-ers now. Wishing you the best!!


  2. hamid says:

    Hey Jen

    I am shooting a Docu-series and am interested in featuring you on the show. Please reach out to me!

    Liked by 1 person

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