Slow Orbits

August 8th, 2015

I took my first two doses of the Nuprogen this morning. This medicine is supposed to make my bones ache, give me flu-like symptoms, and mobilize the stem cells from my bones. They’ve given me a handful of hydrocodone for the pain, if it gets to that. So far so good, though, and Chris and I are considering going to the Ghirardelli store later today for hot fudge sundaes. I also think I need a cozy sweatshirt thing.

Yesterday, Heather Patti, Chris, and I went to a Cubs game. I’m supposed to avoid crowds, though, and I’d only considered the crowd at the game, which seemed manageable. It doesn’t take a genius to predict that the metro to Wrigley Field will be crowded 30 minutes before a game, but, apparently, we are not geniuses. I was unprepared for the crush of humanity on the Red Line. Chris wanted me to hold onto him, not the pole. I think if he could have sliced himself open and shoved me inside, Tauntaun style, he would have.

Here is a picture of us at the game. So much fun. And the hot dogs were to die for.


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Heather Patti says that she wishes Chris could reproduce asexually, maybe grow a nodule or two off his arm. I imagine Heather collecting and nurturing the nodules, and then releasing a pod of good men into the world.

Chris is being careful with me. I fell on the way to the hospital that first day; an uneven bit of cement met my treacherous left leg, and my coffee and I splashed all over the sidewalk. I believe it startled Chris, and now he stands behind me on the escalators, reaches for my hand on the stairs, and orbits me to block potential threats. He says he’s doing his job. This caretaking would be oppressive if I didn’t feel so vulnerable. I’m going to allow it. For now.

Others have been watching out for me too. I went climbing in Ten Sleep, Wyoming two weeks before coming here. I didn’t know if insurance was going to cover HSCT, so even though we had tentative dates scheduled for the procedure, everything was still up in the air. Seemed like I might as well lead my life.

Ten Sleep has sport climbing and cows. Here are some of the cows.

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It’s a steep hike up a narrow trail to the crag, and I try not to think about how much it would hurt to roll down the mountain. I have my trekking poles, of course, but still.

We’re going sport climbing, which means that there are bolts on the cliff. The first person in a group of climbers hangs “draws,” which have two carabineers connected with webbing. Here’s a picture.


This person, let’s call her Stephanie, clips one carabineer to the bolt and the other carabineer to her rope. Stephanie “puts the climb up.” A belayer, let’s call him Scott, stands at the bottom and lets out rope as Stephanie climbs. If Stephanie falls, she will fall the distance she is from the bolt and that distance again. Scott will catch her because the rope will cinch on his belay device. Usually, in our crew, after one person puts up a climb, we pull the rope, and the next person leads it too, only now, the draws are up. There is also the option to leave the rope up (top-rope), and this is what I’m planning to do. I’m going to love myself for where I am, put no pressure on myself to lead anything, and just be happy.

That first day, Stephanie puts up a 5.10a and says she thinks I would like it. A 5.10a is the top of my pay grade.

“You should lead it,” Stephanie says. “It’s soft.” (Soft means that it’s easy for the grade.)

I turn to Jeff, who’s my belayer at the moment. “I’m just going to go clip the first draw and decide if I want to go on from there.”

Jeff shrugs.

“I can back off at any time.” This is something that I need to tell myself, not Jeff, and he shrugs again.

I tie into the rope.

I get to the first bolt, decide to go to the second, and so on. The climb is slightly overhung, so any fall will just be a fall into air. It won’t hurt. Here are some pictures of me on the climb.

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I hang at the crux (the hardest part), which is a small overhang. Stephanie calls up, “There are jugs up there.”

I give it a go, and sure enough, there are some big hand holds over the lip of the overhang.

I get to the top, but I can’t get the rope into the top two draws (we call these top draws the shuts.) I pull rope up, touch the draw with it, and drop the rope again. There is 60 feet of rope below me, and it’s heavy. The problem is, I’m a little freaked, so instead of using the good clipping holds above the shuts, I’m trying to clip them from the shitty holds below the shuts.

I pull the rope up again, stick my whole hand through the carabineer, but somehow fail to make the clip.


I pull the rope up again, and it seems to have gotten heavier. I fail again, and stick the rope in my teeth. (This is stupid, and I know it. If I fall with the rope in my teeth, it will rip them out.) I drop the rope again.

“What’re you doin’?” Jeff calls.

“I think. I might. Be falling.”

“I got you.”

I adjust my grip, and that’s it. I fall. It’s a nice easy fall, though, and I’m happy. I love it when I try so hard I fall.

“You want to give it another go?” Jeff asks.

“I’m done.”

Jeff lowers me. “Not to pick on you or nothin’, but you could work on your clipping.”

I laugh.

Here is a picture of Jeff.


We climb all day, although that’s the last thing I lead because my leg has gone weak. At the end of the day, Skinny and Elsa wander over to where I’m sitting, and we watch some of our friends try something tricky.

“We thought we’d walk you down,” Skinny says.

I want to object, because I don’t need anyone to walk me down. But they love me. I know this. This is their way of watching out for me, like Chris. Here is a picture of Skinny and Elsa on the way down, and below that is a picture of all of us at dinner that night.



I am receiving a slow and steady orbit from all my friends. For example, you’re reading this now, and I know you’ve got me. I’m grateful, and I’ll allow it. For now.


11 Responses to “Slow Orbits”

  1. David Kwee on August 8, 2015 11:12 pm

    Knowing gravity
    of your situation. We
    fall for your brave blog.

    Enjoy the chocolate.

  2. Laura Staman on August 8, 2015 11:50 pm

    Well, Karen, There has been plenty of times you have watched my back as well…making me laugh when I am at the doctors and blue, buying me ice cream when I want to cry, sending me true friendship cards that shine the Light of Love to me, oh an countless countless sister acts. You have your readers backs now I am sure, even as you could use a few more slow orbits in your life now too. That’s just the dance of life. Thank goodness we have each other! Love, Laura

  3. Paula on August 9, 2015 8:49 am

    I really had to choke back the tears on this one girl! You really got me! I am so amazed by your awesomeness and your spirit and positivity!!! XXOO

  4. Gabrielle on August 9, 2015 8:55 am

    Surely we all orbit each other, all us little stars and planets.

  5. Mom on August 9, 2015 10:27 am

    Beautifully written, fabulous sentiment. Great images. Your blogt has moved me many times.

  6. Samantha on August 9, 2015 11:27 am

    My favorite “I love it when I try so hard I fall.” You are my Spirit Super Hero.

    You look Beautiful BTW. But I don’t need a picture to see that.

    Pura Vida*

  7. Nina Kilbride on August 9, 2015 11:31 am

    You are the daughter of the universe. :)

  8. lauraleepearson on August 10, 2015 4:34 pm

    You are living large my friend….wide open, like Ten Sleep WY.
    So much love,

  9. Anne B. Jones on August 11, 2015 10:54 am

    Wow! Karen, I see you have your mother’s writing ability in your genes!

  10. Melanie on August 11, 2015 2:15 pm

    This one made me cry. Love you.

  11. Heathapatti on August 11, 2015 10:22 pm

    Those dogs were delicious. So glad we got to see wrigley field together.

Comments are closed.