StoryCorps at SHC: Jenny Kwak

It's taught me how to slow down...and to prioritize and value what truly is meaningful.


Jenny Kwak: My mom is 10 months older than my dad. And my dad always said that he saw my mom from a window. I guess he was tutoring one of her relatives and he saw her, and he fell in love. Then they were away for a while because he was in the Korean War and he had to serve a couple years. Then they came back - this is all in Seoul. Then they got married and had to immigrate. They've survived in the US with, you know, actually with limited English ability. My mom never spoke English well. But they managed to get a grocery store, work together to get property and to work very, very hard together. They always cared about me and my sister. They've been together almost 51 years. And when we went on a family trip together, I noticed she was forgetting quite a few things. And I realized I have to confront this issue and not be in denial about her Alzheimer's because the memory loss was really obvious. During that time, she was kind of avoiding any doctor visits. And I had actually watched a video on the internet here at Stanford, where Dr. Longo spoke and shared about the neurosciences. And he's the leader of research. He's an amazing doctor, I knew that I had to get my mom seen by him. So I sat at my desk.

And I cried.

And I contacted his office, and then convinced my parents to have her get seen.

I think that's actually a turnaround for my parents, my sister, and myself to really confront the diagnosis, the disease, getting her treatment. It became like a very big team effort I think in our family. It's amazing actually, that my dad, as her caregiver, can do so much. It's incredibly challenging, and he does not want to give up. She's gotten to the place where she can't really do much for herself. And he has to bathe her and help, you know, cook, clean, feed - everything. As a social worker, we're always telling people kind of from a distance, how to navigate things and how to help your loved one. But when it becomes on the other foot - and I have to say that last four or five years knowing all of this and how it just keeps getting worse - I know that I am really, really lucky to have a family that helps, and everybody works together. It feels sad, in some ways that I can't be with her all the time. But I don't think that she would want me to just sit there kind of stagnant. It's taught me how to slow down some times, you know, not to always race around, and to kind of prioritize and value what truly is meaningful. Sometimes, when you're not prioritizing yourself, and you're so worried about your loved one, it's like your whole own health can get really out of whack. So now I actually, in my work in the oncology department, I do caregiver support groups. I do a lot of work on mindfulness stress reduction and speaking on that topic for different community events. That actually is a passion now.



Sound Editor: Gabriel Maisonnave

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