Stem Cell Transplants, Moscow, and Borscht…life with Lisa in Russia.

Food, tests, and Mrs. Tuck…dedicated to my Casady family

This is about my last 24 hours or so. Food and tests we all understand, but Mrs. Tuck? And who the heck is she many of you may ask? Read on…

What a Ride!

What a Ride! Tunnels under the hospital

The day began with a wild ride (literally), at least a wild ride in a wheelchair. I was given a “no breakfast” mandate, which is so sad considering it can be the best meal of the day. I do wish I had brought more raisins and some brown sugar for the oatmeal. Thanks to Brooke I did bring cinnamon. Future Moscow HSCT’ers take note.

First test up was an almost full body MRI on a GE Tesla 3. Oklahoma City didn’t get a T-3 until last summer, so this is very impressive! The MRI’s aren’t bad if they can find a vein for the GAD contrast. Really bad if they cannot. The verdict? It took 5 tries and 3 nurses before they could find a vein that would hold. I have since looked up the word for “that hurt” in Russian which is pronounced “BOL-na”. I need to memorize that in preparation for the Central Line surgery.

I have no lesion report yet from the MRI, just a few quick observations from the doctor:

  1. I chipped my elbow when I fell out of a friend’s pick up a few weeks ago. I turned to get out, but my legs didn’t work and they stayed in the truck. My upper body went flying out the door while the legs stubbornly stayed in the cab. I went to the ground hard (it is a 4×4 so taller than most trucks) and landed on my elbow and knees. I knew it was still sore, but just thought it was a bad bone bruise.
  2. Ultrasound report – the MS destroyed my spleen. They could not find it on the ultrasound, it has atrophied. That explains my constant battle with strep bacteria in the blood and urine.

After the MRI came so may ultrasounds I lost track…heart, legs, carotid artery, abdomen, and more. Eyes were checked, the optic nerve, and the peripheral vision test – which I failed. Blood draw again, 7 tubes this time. There were more tests after that but I swear I cannot remember them, which means they did not hurt. I would remember pain.

Ultrasound Tech

That’s my something or other on the screen.

I was then released to my room for food…pre lunch and lunch? Lunch comes in stages here. Pre-lunch (lunch appetizer?)is at noon, followed by lunch at 2:00. Pre lunch was a weenie and bread.  I had higher hopes for lunch, and they went right out the open window. Lunch was tongue, shredded onions which had been cooked in a tomato and carrot based stock, and bread. Lordy I hope I don’t stop up the toilet here. It gets more in it than I do in my stomach.

Not Oscar Meyer

Not Oscar Meyer

Cow's Tongue

Cow’s Tongue

After a brief meeting with Dr. Fedorenko, I was encouraged to take a little walk around the grounds. I did him one better, I used my entry pass as an exit pass and explored the neighborhood. Not a big expedition you understand as I cannot walk that well or fast. No walker to help – only my cane, so I was restricted to a two block meander (Mrs. Tuck, an old high school english teacher, would be proud – meander!).

Keeping in mind the hospital location is primarily a working class neighborhood, there are many small markets, pastry shops, and open air produce markets. I did my best to explore them all. The produce is absolutely amazing! Vibrant and fresh with no chemical enhancements or sprays.

After my brief walk (jaunt if I were writing for Mrs. Tuck), the daily afternoon shower began. After my right leg caught up with me, it was lagging a few blocks behind, I ducked into a little outdoor cafe with an awning. I have been craving pizza, but no pizza for me there. Using a game of charades and my handy dandy Russian dictionary, I decided it was best not to chance meat or fish and settled for a salad. An amazingly beautiful and delicious salad of oh so fresh cucumbers and tomatoes tossed in olive oil.  Do I sound like a chef? Oh please don’t let me sound like Paula Deen…please!



I then made my way back to the hospital, presented my pass, went through the gate and on to my room. Setting up the laptop, I finished watching “The Kings Speech” – wonderful – and then settled down to read. That didn’t go well. A little over 11 hours later I rolled over and was awakened by the hard edge of the book, wondering what the heck is that! I had slept like a rock from a combination of jet lag and exhaustion from my “jaunt“. Mrs. Tuck is smiling with her short hair and dark glasses.

So now you ask, who is this Mrs. Tuck and what does she have to do with this blog? I’ve been here since Sunday, sitting in a small two room complex with few excursions outside this room. I miss one on one conversation and interaction – meaningful, conversing interaction – with others. And so this gives one time to reflect. Reflect on the life lived and choices made.

Did I live life well?

Did I make a difference?

Did I make good choices?

Would I do things differently given the chance?

Did I love well? In the sense of loving all mankind?

Some I answer absolutely yes. Some no, and some maybe.

These are your thoughts when your future, your chance at a good life are in the hands of a committee. They alone decide if I have done well enough on the physical exam to withstand the stem cell transplant. Will my age be a detriment? Will my spleen, atrophied and non functioning due to the MS keep the procedure from being reality? Or will I be sent home?

Right wing enter: Mrs. Tuck. I attended and graduated from Casady School in Oklahoma City, a small school with a graduating class of 68. Mrs. Tuck taught English and was the much feared head of the Upper Division (high school). She was not the titular head you understand, but in all other ways, she ruled. And she ruled wearing sandals with plastic fruit on top. Even in the cold days of winter, if she wasn’t wearing her sturdy and sensible rubber boots to the ankle to fight off snow and rain, she had on her assortment of sandals. All with plastic fruit.

She was a teacher we all feared, and loved as well. She was strict, and had rules in her classroom to foster an environment of learning. I remember the day she caught Ann B. chewing gum in class. We were reviewing Wilkie Collins book, “The Moonstone” (even MS cannot destroy Mrs. Tuck memories) and she looked up at Ann and stated, in her most perfect and east coast dialect… “Miss B, is that gum you are chewing?”   Off Ann (Miss B. to Mrs. Tuck) went to stand…in the trash can. That was punishment for chewing gum.   Ann was standing there grinning like a cheshire cat and and over in the bay window sat Mark S. and Jay S. laughing under their breaths. It had been a game all along for the entire semester.  Ann  chewed gum in class to see how long she could get away with it, and she did very well. It was late spring before Ann was caught.

Mrs. Tuck was that Boston strong type of woman. Loyal, fiercely independent, strong yet loving and gentle at the same time. She spoke her mind in a way that made you know she meant what she said, but was never threatening. Could she intimidate? Yes, it seemed that way as a high school kid, but looking back it was only sound guidance given with your best interests at heart.

I want to be like Mrs. Tuck. I want to be stronger. To say what I mean in a gentle way. To voice my opinion wisely and gently. To stand up for myself. To say “Thank you very much, but I prefer to _______ “. To stop and think before I act. Heck, just to act instead of doing nothing and then regretting the nothingness.

I want to be Mrs. Tuck…except for the sandals with plastic fruit on top. Here’s to you, Mrs. Tuck!

Bottom center, couldn't you tell?

Guess which one?

To my Casady family:There is a term widely used back home in Oklahoma City…the Casady family. Over 65 years of educating and preparing youth for life. I never really thought about it much, nice term, but never thought much more about it. Until now. So many of the “Casady family” have been with me in so many ways these past few weeks and days. Words of support and encouragement, gifts of love, and little things that mean a lot – like the post-it notes Diana M.S. sent (Class of 1973, but we claim her and other ’73 ‘ers). They have been put to good use posted on my wall with Russian words and phrases. 

spa-SI-ba Diana

spa-SI-ba Diana

These friendships and memories flood my mind these days. I think back to the fun we had, the trip to St. Crispins, past reunions, and our future reunion – our 40th – next summer. A lot to ponder. Thank you for your words of love. Every day I get an email or Facebook message from someone. So in answer to question #4 above – “Would I do things differently if I had the chance?” – yes! I would love to go back and re-live those days, and to do so with the strength of Mrs. Tuck. I would be more outgoing and work a little harder connecting with everyone. I would fear less and speak up more. I would try more things, do more things, and I would say “yes” when asked to join the JV field hockey team – still regret that one! I would study more, and give all you smart guys a run for the money in the tight valedictorian race. No maybe not, that would be impossible. I miss you all, Class of 1974 – please stay in touch…I’m going to be there next year, I promise!

Goodnight Moon…



8 Responses to “Food, tests, and Mrs. Tuck…dedicated to my Casady family”

  1. Diana

    Mrs. tuck would be so proud. And don’t forget her Gitanes cigarettes!!

  2. Adelaide

    Beautifully written Lisa! You should consider becoming an author and write about your “From Russia with Lisa” experience!
    Wonderful food for thought for all of us who rake things for granted. Also, speaking of food, interesting info on meals a la Russe! You’re right that produce is beautiful- maybe because its warm but not so blasted hot there! It’s only 102 degrees here-argh!
    You left just in time!
    So glad you got the “go ahead!” We will be pulling and praying for you!
    ❤ Adelaide

  3. Susie

    Beautifully written-Mrs Tuck would be proud. It seems so long ago-and yet there are so many great memories. My prayers are with you-stay strong and keep writing

  4. Anonymous

    What a wonderful tribute to Casady and Mrs. Tuck. I remember her best too. “Introductory amoebas” and all the rest served me well throughout college. I hope your treatment is successful and that you will be feeling much better soon!

  5. karen

    What a wonderful tribute to Casady and Mrs. Tuck. I remember her best too. “Introductory amoebas” and all the rest served me well throughout college. I hope your treatment is successful and that you will be feeling much better soon!

  6. Skeet Wootten

    I can’t text because of Mrs. Tuck’s insistence on proper grammar…
    Lisa, thinking of you and praying for your success. I live in Iowa now and rarely get back to Oklahoma, but Facebook, for all its faults, has brought names and faces from long ago back into my life, and I’m grateful for that. So, here’s to seeing you next year at the reunion!

  7. Wendy Nash

    Just to let you know, I had an HSCT in Chicago last year (for CIDP, not MS) at the age of 56! You can do this! It was non-myeloablative, and not sure if you get the full myeloablative with Dr. F; I think perhaps. But, the care there is stellar, so I’m sure you will be able to handle it just fine! Prayers for you and He will be with you!


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