Looking at Ken Jeong, the talented Korean actor and comedian, no one can make out that he is actually a real-life doctor. However, this both reel and real life doctor had to go through some really tough times when his wife, Tran, was diagnosed with breast cancer. The thing is that a disease like cancer does not only take a toll on the patient, but also impacts everyone around them.
Ken Jeong had completed his residency in internal medicine from the Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans. Meanwhile, he was also simultaneously a regular feature at many stand-up comedy clubs. He served as a physician in multiple hospitals in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles. Until 2007, he kept juggling the two careers. It is not easy to become a doctor and therefore, he wasn’t sure whether he should leave it and try his future in acting. From a successful career as a doctor to a struggling actor, he did not know if it was a smart move. But, it was his wife who encouraged him to do what he wanted to. This push was enough for him to leave his career as a doctor and take up acting full time. The couple is more like a team that kept encouraging each other to do well in life and not hold back until they realized their dreams.
Tran herself is a physician, who is practicing family medicine. It was she who first observed a lump on her breast in 2007. Her worst fears came true when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. Receiving a call from the doctor with such news is definitely emotionally wrecking for the patient, but it is equally challenging for the caregiver as well. As the primary caregiver, Tran’s illness was particularly difficult for Ken Jeong. He had to go through the tough time, while simultaneously making sure that his wife did not give up. He also had his twin daughters to take care of, who were just one year old.
It turns out that the old adage is true after all – Laughter is actually the best medicine. One of the most popular comedic roles in Hollywood made this phrase a reality for Ken Jeong and his wife Tran, and that too at a time when they were fighting one of the deadliest diseases. Right in the middle of all the chemotherapy treatments came the call for a role that would go on to become a legendary character and make Ken a household name. This call was for the role of Mr. Chow in the wildly successful, Hangover. Of course, Ken Jeong never knew that it was going to be a role of a lifetime for him. Given the personal crisis he was going through, Jeong was not sure if he should take up the role. But as always, Tran helped him with his confusion and suggested him to go through with it. He was not sure earlier, but when his wife nudged him to take up the offer, he had no more doubts.
At the time, Ken also did not know that the humorous role of a Korean gangster would go on to become a channel for releasing his own bottled anger. The anger of Mr. Chow, which was the source of laughter to the audiences, actually served as therapy for Ken Jeong. With all the dark shadows looming over his life, he got the opportunity to channel out his emotions in a productive manner. Since he also got a chance to go out and get a fresh perspective, he was able to become a much better caregiver to his wife.
Ken also made a few contributions of his own to the movie that he knew only his wife would notice. He saw to it that the movie was especially entertaining for his wife. He wanted her to know that he loved her and sought to make her laugh in the darkest hour of their lives together, in his own unique style.
Ken has always been known among his friends for his improvisation skills. It was his years of experience in theater and improv that has brought him a lot of roles in television and movies. He has been seen in The Office on the NBC Network, and the HBO hits Curb Your Enthusiasm and Entourage. Improv has been one of his strong suits and he made sure that he used that to put a smile on the face of his beloved wife.
In Hangover, Ken played a small role, but he made it his own. The actor impromptu added words to his lines in the movie. He did this more than a few times in the movie, but one of the most noticeable of them all is when Bradley Cooper and friends come to get Doug from Mr. Chow. Though he was a Korean gangster, what many people did not notice was that he shouted ‘kai chee’ to his henchmen to get Doug out of the car for the exchange. Now, ‘kai chee’ is actually a Vietnamese phrase, which means ‘chicken die’. This is really an inside joke between Ken and his wife. The actor made sure that these and some other covert jokes that were known only to him and his wife made way into the movie. He was doing this movie to make his wife laugh more than anybody else. And it worked. She did enjoy the movie, enjoyed his antics and especially the jokes that were there just for her.
The couple worked like a team fighting cancer and in raising their twin daughters. Tran was finally able to beat cancer after the filming of Hangover got over. Ken shared his happiness with the world at the MTV Movie Awards in 2010.
The couple is now happily living a cancer-free life. Their girls are 8 years old now and the family is doing fine. Ken Jeong has done a lot of movies and television shows since. In fact, his namesake show, Dr. Ken, which debuted on ABC in 2015 is running quite successfully. To keep up with Dr. Ken, check out his show when you have a reliable cable TV connection.