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

Enjoy the Strawberries

A Story of the Little Things in Life.

My hands are no longer contracted as you saw in the video, and the feeling is slowly coming back to what once were wretched hands. But there is more, much more, than walking better and being able to speak again. A moment to tell about you that moved me to tears in the middle of a restaurant. I never really stopped to think about how I was forced to eat or drink in the past two years until lunch in the Italian outdoor café on Saturday. It hit me like a truck carrying memories that dumped all the emotional wreckage on my plate.

I ordered spaghetti with tomato sauce. This is in itself of no importance, except that it was really good, and you understand how difficult it is to eat. The past two years, I drank using both hands on the glass, like a toddler drinking from a “sippy cup”. My meals were primarily eaten in a fist and claw method, much like a 15 month old might do. The fork in my right hand held in a clenched fist which curved inward. Getting food onto the fork was a pattern of chasing it around on the plate until I managed to get enough for a bite. And then the wrist was turned inward at an awkward angle to try and maneuver the food into my mouth, providing that tremors did not shake the food from the fork before it got to my mouth. And some days, yes few and far between, but some days, others had to feed me.  I hate that memory, of someone having to place food in my mouth because I had tremors so badly I could not hold a fork.

But Saturday?  O glorious Saturday, I executed the left handed spoon as the right hand twirled the pasta with the fork. Was it perfectly executed? No, but I did it without even thinking, until the realization came upon me in a flood, and I sat there and cried, and cried. Cried at how very far I had come in the few weeks since my stem cell re-infusion birthday on July 10th. Cried at the thought that no longer would I have to be fed, no longer did I need to fear a wheel chair, and no longer did I need to wonder what I would do, what could I do when the day of the necessity for a ventilator arrived, It was there, lurking around the corner in the shadows according to Dr. Fedorenko. The days of being bed bound, care givers, health care aids around the clock…that’s all vanished now.

And now I was eating spaghetti and doing a pretty darn good job of it. I was enjoying onion soup without half of it falling from the spoon and being left on the table or in my lap. In the excitement of being able to do the “big” things like walking and speaking, the little things that mean so much had gone un-noticed until that moment.

It’s much like how we go about life. Always too busy, doing the big things, the “stuff of life” as Rich Mullins stated, while the little things slip by unnoticed. And it is the little things in life that make this journey so special. We all need to experience the meaning of living fully in the present moment, neither retreating to the past nor anticipating the future, appreciating all that is before us. If not, we miss so much of what God has intended for us to appreciate.

One of my favorite authors, Brennan Manning tells this story…


“Approaching a precipitous chasm, the monk looked back and saw the tiger about to spring. In the nick of time he saw a rope hanging over the edge of the cliff and began to shimmy down it, out of the clutches of the tiger. Whew! Then he checked below and saw a quarry of huge, jagged rocks. Not so good. Back up, maybe? No, the tiger was poised atop with bare claws. As the he weighed his options, two mice began to nibble at the rope.

What to do? The monk saw a strawberry within arm’s reach growing out of the face of the cliff. He plucked it, ate it, and pronounced it the best strawberry he had ever tasted. If he had been preoccupied with the rocks below (the future) or with the tiger above (the past), he could have missed the strawberry that God was giving him in the present moment.”

Enjoy the strawberries.

And so I thank you…a journey that began in trepidation and the uncertainty of success is now moving on to a different phase, recovery. This is not the end of my posts. I will continue to write of new discoveries, possible setbacks, upcoming chemotherapy, and new adventures. The journey will not end, just evolve. I hope you will continue to read and follow me on this path…you bless me.



Almost all of life is made of these ordinary days.
And it is how you live your ordinary days
That determines whether or not you have big moments.
Get out there and make something of your ordinary days.

~ Ann Kiemel


Goodnight Moon…and as Diana said…Hello Sun!



12 Responses to “Enjoy the Strawberries”

  1. Scott Barrett

    What a wonderful message and at a perfect time for me and my overly busy life. Thank You! Thank You! You are an incredible blessing to all of us who read your posts. We are so proud of you and so happy for your amazing progress. You are incredible!

  2. Lorraine Saipe

    Amazing post Lisa so good to hear the amazing progress xxx

  3. kathy hermansen

    Lisa I have enjoyed your blog-what a journey filled with anticipation, adventure and courage. Your story has encouraged me and blessed me beyond all measure. I have prayed for you and will pray for your continued healing. Thank you for sharing your life, your struggles and your successful progress.
    Kathy (Jenks) Hermansen

  4. goodbyeMS

    Thank you so much for allowing us to be a part of your treatment and to the end of your MS. You have a beautiful way with language and I appreciate your honesty. Time to eat a strawberry 🙂

  5. Glenna Hoke

    Thank you for sharing your strawberries and allowing all of us to be a part of your journey.

  6. Pat Gallagher

    I guess you’re home by now. Welcome back and I hope you are finding it a land of milk and strawberries. I’m glad these posts will keep appearing, the stories of your daily life and how much happiness the strawberries bring. Hugs and kisses to the beautiful Lisa!
    Ps – isn’t it amazing how much the little things mean and isn’t it a blessing that memories become rearranged to not dwell in the nastiness of your adventure but makes time collapse so you remember the good parts much more than the bad parts.

  7. Diana

    I think of you every day. I hope you are continuing to experience the joy and wonder of daily improvements, no matter how incremental. I hope you are floating around on the pool at every opportunity. May blessings continue to mount up, may your strength continue to improve so that the peaks yet to come are only hills, and may you sense the love and joy coming towards you from all of us out here who only want the best for you!

    I send love and wish you joy!

    Hello, Sun!

  8. Camilla Riley

    Lisa, you bring a fresh dose of God into each day when your blog appears. Prayers and praise follow you along with my gratitude to you for sharing your faith and freedom journey with the rest of us!

  9. Anne

    Dear Lisa,
    It is now 6 months since your procedure-what is the outcome to date for those of us interested in the treatment.

    • Lisa Stallings

      I have done amazingly well. My EDSS was a 6.5 when I arrived in Moscow, and today it is 3.5. This is remarkable as had I not had HSCT, both of my neurologist had said I would be wheelchair bound by this past February, I was progressing that fast. I still have occasional foot burning, but it is fairly mild. The only symptom which has not resolved is my speech. I do not stutter to the extent I did, but I still have issues. I cannot complain if that is my only problem that remains! This was the best, absolute best decision I have ever made. My only regret is that I did not do it sooner.


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