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

What would you try?

5:48 a.m.

Today is is the big day so many HSCT patients await, the day their frozen stem cells are re-infused back into their now chemo ridden and T-Cell abandoned body.  My new birthday. And, I awoke today with excitement, but put my feet on the ground and oops….what’s going on?

9:20 a.m.

The doctor says the effects of the chemo are surfacing quickly. No strength to even walk to the bathroom, difficult to type notes to you all, and hard to hold my head up. Those blasted ugly travel pillows do the job for me. I will curse them no more. I am not necessarily fatigued, but the muscles just have no strength to move – on command or otherwise. It could also be the  malignant MS raising it’s ugly, gnarled head in defiance. Back down beast, your time has come.

I sleep off and on for a few ours, my breakfast porridge just that, a smelly bowl of mush to me. I turn my head and dig in the cabinet for some wonderful peanut butter crackers a dear friend sent. The kind you take on long trips to keep you awake. Ritz like round crackers with peanut butter in between. Fantastic, as long as they are eaten in moderation!

11:55 a.m.

Dozing until close to noon, the good doc knocked on my door with a show and tell. But better than kindergarden show and tell. Oh so much finer. This was  my one good bag of stem cells. The puny bag was intimidated and stayed in the can. The bag is complete with my name, which he was quick to point out. Details.

Frozen Stem Cells

Frozen Stem Cells

12:25 p.m.

Nurses arrived almost en masse, rearranging the room so that the bed was in the center of the room. Why not?  It has been the center of my attention since chemo, let the bed take it’s royal throne in the center for all to surround and hover. Kate Middleton – get ready.

Little “Fanfare for the Common Man” here. Let’s just say…they start. Bottles of more fluids (I swear I’ve had enough fluid to put out the Texas drought). I catch syringes out of the corner of right my eye filled with red tinged substance. I guess it’s go time.



sterile supplies

sterile supplies

Before I even know if they are being injected or not, I feel as if a small stick were stuck in the back of my throat, scratching. I say nothing as I feel it may be nerves, but then the doc asks how and what I feel, and he says “normal”. Good, I eat sticks and I’m normal.

Then beeps go off, loud beeps. Its the BP monitor. Too low, oh well. Since you are reading this you know I survived! He asks if I’m dizzy, but I am really doing pretty well, so far. He then tells me that some people he will semi sedate for the procedure, but no, I am very special. Lucky me. Due to my low BP ( isn’t that supposed to be good?) he would not consider any sedation, so get tough girl.

At one point towards the end first bag of cells, I opened my eyes wide and started to…gag, then….. The nurse on the left got the pan while the nurse on the right kept shooting cells into the catheter. Stuff coming in the right catheter while other stuff goes out the left side of me. It seems the good nurse had forgotten to turn open the flow knob on the nausea drip IV. Pity.

Nurse on the Left, sorry

Nurse on the Left, sorry

The more I tried to relax, them more questions Dr. F. kept asking…are you okay, how do you feel, any nausea, any pain… There was no pain, none. Only discomfort at the pressure exerted on your body as the cells flow inward, through the jugular, the heart and spread out across the body. A five minute break, and then bag two begins, which will be a short process as it only contains 68,000 cells. Stinker.

The re-infusion is complete! My orders are to lie still for an hour or more, done with pleasure, and then he will return to assess my “void”. Meaning? The doctor wants to see if the cells have made a quick escape through the kidney, bladder and on through the urine. This rarely occurs, but must always be checked. Good! I had no back up plan, so I am prayerfully thankful things went  so well.

4:15 p.m.

What’s up next! It seems to me to have been a big day…new birthday, old cells back with new life ahead, so what could better?

Throwing away the frozen “whatever stuff” from the bucket which stored the stem cells. I have seen photos of my HSCT buddies doing this, but never really understood. You throw a bucket? Russian tradition? I’m okay with Russian traditions, at least common era traditions. So I get up, put on my shoes (I have been forewarned) and slide my feet into the hall. Dr. F hands me the large bucket in which my cells were stored for the past few days. He removes the lid to expose a witch’s cauldron of smoke. Very Harry Potter. I am unsure if I can handle the bucket, but is is exceedingly light. Doctor F. tells me to go slow, pull the bucket back, and slowly release it to the ground. Slow motion bowling with smoke.

Over the hall floor spills the most glorious sight! Liquid spills out which quickly evaporates into droplets and smoke everywhere. For roughly sixty seconds this scene explodes before my eyes, I am in awe, and I do not want it to stop.

Frozen stuff

Frozen stuff

Frozen stuff on the ground!

Frozen stuff on the ground!

An amazing end to an even more amazing day. I first began writing this post at 5:48 a.m., and it is now 7:59 p.m. in Moscow. A long and tiring day. Tomorrow begins the daily monitoring of blood work and all other types of tests. I will keep you updated.

 Again my sincere thanks and love for your notes. I am answering every email, but most responses will likely be short as fatigue envelopes me. Have patience. As strength is regained, my fingers will scroll the keys and send news back to you in great length and detail.

Goodnight Moon,


P.S. Grandson Ethan is now feeding himself with distinguished pride, and a very sad, very large dog is now outside the kitchen gate howling. You see, Mya had been the wondrous recipient of Ethan’s food to the floor. He would delight in throwing food her way. No Mya in the kitchen, no food on the floor. All the food goes in Ethan. Job well done.

Ethan & Mya

Ethan & Mya


3 Responses to “What would you try?”

  1. Adelaide

    Amazing is too small a word for all you have experienced and communicated to everyone. So glad you are through this part. Rest well and lots so your body can re-boot! Hope your strength returns soon!

  2. Sheli

    Happy Birthday!! I’m so excited for you and can’t wait for my “new” birthday 🙂

  3. Adelaide

    Isn’t it amazing what the human body can endure and repair?
    Sounds like you have been through the worst and are on the downhill slide!
    Can’t wait for you to get your strength back and head home!
    Won’t be long now!
    Hang in there.


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