Category: Food

Fried Rice without Normal Taste Buds

Fried Rice
I recently brought Mama Pham’s Fried Rice to a brunch with some friends. Someone requested the recipe because THE FRIED RICE IS DELICIOUS, so I thought I’d post the totally ambiguous recipe here too. Cooking for others has greatly helped my mom during her recovery process, and despite not having working taste buds because of treatment plans the last two years, her cooking experience alone has allowed her to continue making delicious dishes. I happily do the final taste test before sharing with others, although we rarely need to make adjustments. Happy Cooking!

Mama Pham’s Fried Rice

Warning: definitely not a science, and totally ambiguous! Nothing is exact in our house, mostly made with love, and recipes are a dash of this and a little of that. Fried rice is the dish we usually make with leftovers in the home. My mom no longer has working taste buds due to radiation (they’ll return one day!), so I find it rather impressive that her final products are still always so great.

Any combination of: chicken, pork, chinese sausage (many different brands)
Oyster Sauce
Soy Sauce or Seasoning Sauce – We use Seasoning Sauce usually.
Sesame Oil

About 1/4 onion (yellow or white) chopped
Sauté in preferred oil (olive or canola) until lucent
Keep medium to medium low heat

Any number of the following meats (or no meat!):
Left over cooked Chicken chopped
Boiled Pork chopped
Xa Xiu – Roast Pork – Roast Pork
Lap Xuong  (most common) – you can find this at any Ranch 99 or Asian store. Almost all fried rice dishes have this.

Mix together about four eggs, don’t need to be mixed thoroughly. Cook into a pancake like shape. When done cooking, cut this up into small bits. You can also scramble your egg, but we don’t like that consistency as much in my fried rice. Too mushy.

Frozen or fresh. Thaw and heat before putting into fried rice. Make sure no liquids remain, or else rice will be soggy:
Carrots – 1/2 cup – more or less as you desire
Peas – 1/2 cup – more or less as you desire

Day old jasmine rice is best. New rice works too but is usually a little too mushy. Adjust depending on how much rice you have left or how many people you want to serve. For Rebel Alliance breakfast, we used 6 cups of cooked rice.

dash Salt
dash Sugar
dash Pepper
Soy Sauce or Seasoning Sauce  (2 tablespoons)
Sesame Oil (1 teaspoon)
Oyster Sauce (1 tablespoon)

Keep on low fire and continue to toss until you are happy with the consistency and dryness of the fried rice.

Happy Cooking!

Biopsy results! No evidence of Leukemia!

Mama Pham’s 100 Days Post-Transplant Biopsy came back clear!  There are no Leukemia cells present.  She is currently cancer-free!

She has dropped to 92lbs and is still taking about 12-14 meds per day, but we are definitely one huge leap closer to full remission.  She is not considered to be in full remission until the 2 year mark. 110 Days Down.  630 Days to go!


Quiet, Uneventful

Things have been a bit quiet and uneventful the past week, which is awesome. My mom had regular, twice weekly check-ups at City of Hope and everything looks good. Her complete blood count is acceptable and she feels well. She is still underweight and not eating as she should, but that will slowly get better over time. Here’s to more quite, uneventful periods. No infections, no nausea, no danger.

Upcoming Events – Lumbar Puncture + Stent Replacement!

Mama Pham is doing well so far. She is still a bit underweight since her taste buds have not returned and she has occasional nausea. We are trying to make sure she eats with shakes and soups (My, Pho, Hu Tieu!). She is hanging in there and some days are better than others.

Next week, we have a CNS Prophylaxis (lumbar puncture with chemo), which is chemo into the spine (also known as intrathecal chemotherapy), as a preventative measure. Cancer cells can get into the Central Nervous System, but chemo drugs cannot, so they have to inject it this way.  Mama Pham will have 6 of these injections total.  Each time, she gets about 2 tablespoons (need to insert actual mL) of chemo (I think it is methotrexate, need to verify).

Mama Pham will also have a stent replacement to make sure her kidneys continue to properly filter all the meds we put into her body.  It is too soon to blast out the kidney stones so we will keep the stent in there until her platelets and WBC counts are better.  We think the kidney stones maybe have been caused by earlier doses of chemotherapy.  We don’t know for sure.

Right now, her blood counts are:

  • ANC: 1.2 (Low), considered neutropenic
  • WBC:  3.4
  • Hemoglobin: 8.7 (Low), transfusion optional if patient is tired
  • Platelets: 26 (Low), be careful of bleeding.

She will need a platelet transfusion before the lumbar puncture.

Day 16! Cancer Free Peripheral Blood! WBC Count of 3.0!

Much has happened in the last 16 days!  As you may recall from a previous post, the stem cell transplant day is Day Zero.  We are now on Day 16.  The first two weeks are the hardest part of any stem cell transplant.  The patient feels all the side effects of the radiation and chemotherapy from the previous week and the body has to deal with having 8.7 million new cells from another person’s body.  Here’s now I like to compare it to a wartime scenario:  The original fort (the body) is almost completely annihilated with different types of poison (radiation and chemo in this case) leaving just enough infrastructure so that the fort can be rebuilt.  Once it is deemed that enough of the enemy has been eradicated, a completely new army (enemy/cancer free) is sent in to rebuild.  The fort is still reeling from all the damage, and the army still has not adjusted so the first two weeks is quite rough.  Hopefully, soon, all the damage slowly starts to heel, the army gets acclimated and everything works in full force to rebuilt the fort again.  During that time, we just hope that no other enemy comes in to attack since neither the fort nor the army are ready for battle!

During the past two weeks, unfortunately, my mom’s defenseless body has had to fight some infections.  She has had bronchitis in both lungs, swollen intestines and many mouth and throat sores from the radiation and chemotherapy.  The hospital has kept those infections under control by varying different anti-fungal and antibacterial medications. She has been put on oxygen several times to help her breathing.  She was also put on Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN), which is food through the IV since she has been unable to eat.  She has been hanging in there.

Yesterday, we heard great news.  Her peripheral blood is completely cancer free and her WBC is up to 3.0!  We still need to wait on bone marrow biopsy to see if my uncle’s stem cells have grafted and if the bone marrow is cancer free.  She has always had disease in the bone marrow and not just the peripheral blood.  But this news is great news so far.  There is still much ahead, but this is fantastic news at this point.  Next week, we will have more scans to figure out the source of some of her infections, have a bone marrow biopsy done at one point and hopefully get her eating real food again. 🙂

Here are some references from medical resources that have some nice summaries about stem cell transplants and the donation process:

Admission to City of Hope for Transplant

Today is admission day to City of Hope.  The day started out at 8:00am with the third and dose of Palifermin, used to prevent mouth and throat sores from radiation and chemotherapy.  It is a human keratinocyte growth factor that stimulates the growth of cells in the mouth and throat.  At 9:00am, she was admitted to the 6th floor of City of Hope’s Hospital.  It’s the top floor, or as I like to refer to it:  The Penthouse Suite.  This was quite a different experience from past chemotherapy admissions to the hospital.  In the past, we sometimes waited for 3-4 hours for a bed in the hospital to open before she was admitted.  This time, since she was admitted for a long term stay as a bone marrow patient, they scheduled her for admission immediately after the Palifermin appointment!  I guess bone marrow transplant patients are at the top of the priority queue.

City of Hope’s rooms at Helford are nice.  My mom’s room consisted of two rooms.  The first room is a staging area where visitors can wash their hands, put on masks and hang out.  The second room is the patient’s room.  I hung out for the day, took a short nap and chatted with the nurses before heading home for the night.

A completely random note:  Duarte, CA was definitely affected by the Southern California fires.  Both the outdoors and indoors of the hospital smelled like smoke.  Evidently, City of Hope’s ventilation system was not designed to effectively handle wildfire smoke from the outside.  I brought a portable HEPA purifier for my mom’s room to try and help with the smell.  Hopefully they will clear it with their air filtration system soon.

Heme and Non-Heme Iron

One of the many side effects of chemotherapy is anemia.  Since the chemo is killing all blood cells, good and bad, the body oftentimes does not have enough red blood cells (RBC).  When the hemoglobin level reaches below 8 g/dL, my mom needs a blood transfusion.  Therefore, I looked up foods that might help with keeping her hemoglobin at a somewhat normal level, which is 12-15 g/dL in adult females.  This was when I learned about Heme and Non-Heme iron.  There are many different kinds of food that contain iron.  The heme type is more easily absorbed by the body.  This type includes chicken liver, clams and beef.  The non-heme type includes the veggies, beans and cereal.  We have to balance this list out with what is actually good and not good for a chemotherapy, cancer patient!  No wonder the hospital provides dietitians.  There so many different factors to a chemo patient’s diet!

  Heme iron Non-heme iron
What is it? Heme iron is found in foods that contained hemoglobin – animal foods including red meats, fish and poultry.


Non-heme iron is the form of iron found in all other, non-meat based foods.
Iron sources in food


A serving of chicken livers, clams, or roasted beef tenderloin contains all the iron you need for a day.



Non-heme iron can be found in vegetables, grains, iron-fortified breakfast cereal, lentils and beans.


Iron absorption


One of the biggest benefits is that heme iron is absorbed better than non-heme iron, andits absorption isn’t affected by anything else you eat. We absorb approximately 15-35% of the heme iron we eat, which is a lot!


Non-heme iron is not absorbed by the body as well as heme iron. Only 2 – 20% of non-heme iron is absorbed.