Frequently Asked Questions

I thought I would throw together a list of questions that I have been asked repeatedly lately….because when you’ve got questions – I’ve got answers. Hmmm….maybe.


Why did the surgeon change her mind about doing the surgery?

Dr. Shumway had decided that her colleague would do the surgery with her.  Apparently, the colleauge did not see my scans/records until February 17th.  They decided together that the surgery would be too extensive for my lungs and heart to handle.


Why did the surgeon(s) not cancel the surgery earlier?

Dr. Shumway was very apologetic about not letting us know further in advance.  I’m not sure if we’ll ever know the reason (this side of heaven).  I guess I feel peace about the timing.  I do not understand why we went through four months of hell, but that’s okay – there HAS TO BE a purpose in all of this.  Too much has happened.

A handful of people have said the same things to me – that Dr. Shumway and her colleague didn’t call off the surgery, but that the Lord did.  I do fully believe that.  I harbor no ill will towards Dr. Shumway – I actually respect her more so.  What if she had gone ahead and performed the surgery w/o voicing her concerns?  At best I would be on a ventilator right now.  No thank you.


What now?

This is probably the toughest question and the one asked most often.  I don’t know.

Although I did {finally} get things rolling at my cardiologist’s office in Kalispell.  He is out of town for the week, but in the meantime the nurse will send my records to a surgeon at John Hopkins.  Also, when Dr. M (cardiologist) gets back next week he will call Dr. Shumway and the surgeon at JH and then he’ll call me.  (John Hopkins is the hub for Marfan Syndrome.)

There are moments that I am anxious for some answers – any answers.  Specific timelines, expectations, and outlooks.


How do i feel physically?

Tired.  Occasionally, I have a bit of pressure in my chest – but nothing I can’t handle. Often I have palpitations.


How do I feel about everything?

This should probably be a post by itself, but I ‘ll be brief.

My feelings vary by the minute.  I have felt frustration, discouragement, confusion, and sadness.  When there’s too much time to think about things I have a really tough time and can’t quit thinking about it – the unknown.  I guess the most perplexing thing for me right now is that I just don’t get what all this means.  I keep thinking, “what’s next?”


Other Stuff

When my mom talked to Dr. Shumway the day that the surgery was called off, Dr. S said that she thinks the best option is to “let nature run its course.”  (Meaning do not do surgery……)  She also mentioned that there are actually FOUR aneurysms, not one – like I had been told before.

One more thing – My mom has been fighting ear aches, sore throats, etc for over a week.  She feels miserable and has been a TROOPER.  I’m pretty sure she hasn’t complained once.  Would you pray for her?!  We’ve kind of been given an unexpected extended vacation – and I hope she can enjoy the time with her good friends here in ND.


{guest post} Cemetery Tupperware

{Written by brittany k pederson, a friend since our mom’s were pregnant with us! Thirty years to be exact!}

So as some of you may or may not know, Geo and I spent a significant amount of our childhood leisure time in Riverview Cemetery (Williston). For those of you out there who feel it is disrespectful to play in a cemetery, you are not alone. A middle-aged woman made it her business one day to inform us that our 9-year-old selves were disrespecting the deceased by turning their final resting place into our imaginary town. I won’t necessarily disagree with her, but her judgment didn’t deter us much, that’s for sure. On a regular basis, I rode my bike over to Geoffrey’s house at 824 8th St. W., and we made our way across the street for some good old fashioned fun as pretend grown-ups. We drove around our town, picking up our kids from school, getting speeding tickets, and visiting each other’s homes (i.e., trees). Because the trees were our homes, we felt the need to decorate them and really make them our own. In our first (and might I say valiant) effort at interior design, we felt that the best method of making the place feel “homey” was to move in our Tupperware…..well, to be precise, our mom’s old, scratched-up, stained, and ready for the trash Tupperware. But they let us have it…….or at least never missed it, which meant it was ours to do with as we pleased. So we “moved in” a few pieces at a time by placing Tupperware in various tree crevices……and, man, did it feel great to have a place of our very own. And then, one day, with no warning at all, we got evicted. Our Tupperware was gone. We felt sure it was the work of the judgmental, fun-hating woman previously mentioned. And, it really didn’t matter if it was her or the cemetery caretaker…….we were crushed. But the imagining and the playing continued………let the good times roll on, G-rock!

Moral of the story: Don’t give your Tupperware away to just any tree! Pay off the caretaker first.

{taken today at “our” tree!}


We are somewhere between Bismarck and Minot on our way back to Williston.  I love this landscape.  One minute the horizon is a line of windmills.  Next the frozen lake is covered with ice fishing houses.  I think I have counted four trees.  🙂 A pale blue sky and white ground with gold peeking out here and there.  So beautiful and peaceful (well, from inside a warm and gust-free Denali!)

We have been getting updates throughout the afternoon on Helen’s Fundraiser – which has been fun since we didn’t make it back to Williston to attend.  Helen is a dear friend – who lives next door to my bff’s parents – who my mom has been friends with for years.  I LOVE spending any time I can with Helen.  She had a massive stroke back in December and just recently went home.

We spent the night in Jamestown.  Woke up and met Kendra (family friend) and her family at Perkins for breakfast.  I LOVE reading Kendra’s Facebook status updates – she writes THE funniest things that her kids say and do.  Her overall perspective on current and events is so entertaining and enlightening!  (To say the least.)  Holla! Anyway, it was fun to meet her family and visit for a bit. Gosh, am I in North Dakota or what?!  (eg: visit for a bit?!)  Oh, Dear!

We got on the road by late morning.  We were barely out of Jamestown when my mom checked her voicemail messages.  There was an automated message from Amtrak saying that due to service disruptions our reservation had been cancelled for Monday.

I guess a little back story is in order…..last week I could not (and did not want to) make decisions.  I had a lot of feelings of  “I just want to be home.”  I think that is because home was the only place that felt safe at the time.  I felt like I was a little girl again and at a sleepover at a friends house.  The closer it got to bedtime the more I wanted to be home in my bed with the knowledge that my parents and sisters were close by.  That is the safety and security I kept grasping for in those moments of uncertainty and insecurity.  I wanted security and I wanted familiarity.

I finally decided yesterday to take the train home on Monday (tomorrow) with my mom instead of staying in Williston for another week.  I knew I would miss seeing lots of friendly faces in Williston, but I was just done and needed to be at home.  Or so I thought….

So, after my mom updated me on the message from Amtrak I called them.  I thought there had been some confusion because yesterday we cancelled her ticket and room and got a bigger room and my ticket.  Anyway, I talked to the nice Amtrak lady who told me that the train service was cancelled until FRIDAY, March 4th due to derailments and wind/snow.  Hmmmmm….that sure doesn’t happen everyday, does it?!

I’m not really sure why I’m still shocked when these things happen.  Immediately when I heard that we’d be in Williston an extra five days I laughed.  Of course, OUR plans changed….they have since day one!  I really am okay with the change because there are a lot of things to be glad about (and a lot of people to see and things to do!).  I guess it’s the flood of peace that immediately followed the change of plans that kept my attitude in check.


I got to spend last week with Berkli Annabelle who is my namesake.  I love her.  She’s my little buddy.  We got to snuggle every night.  I couldn’t kiss those chubby cheeks enough!  She has the prettiest big blue eyes and most delicate lips and nose.  She is sweet, very cautious about how many smiles she doles out in a day, but hearty with smirks!  So thankful that I got to “know” her this week.

Love you, Berks!

{One of her many, many nicknames . . . Berky Belle, Belle, Berkles, Berk, Berky Boo}

The Pioneer Woman

If you are a friend on Facebook, you have seen my updates/links/posts about Pioneer Woman.  I’ve been a pretty big fan for a little over two years.  I tell everyone (who hasn’t already heard) about her amazing recipes.  I had already requested a few of her recipes during my recovery after surgery.

Today on the drive home from Minnesota, I got a call from my friend Joci saying that she had received a letter in the mail for me.  I thought it was a joke.  Why would someone send mail to me at her house?  She told me to check my email when I could get to WiFi.  About twenty minutes later we stopped at Caribou Coffee in Alexandria, MN and I checked my email to find the scanned letter below.

It took me a few reads to really get who this letter was from.  I was so surprised!  What a cool thing!  Joci had sent Ree “PW” Drummond a letter about my surgery and a photo of Joci and I.  Ree sent the following letter back to Joci to give to me.

Do I have amazingly, awesome, caring friends or what?

Thank you, Joci – what a fun and unique and personal and thoughtful gift.  You’re awesome!  Blessed to have you in my life.  Love you.


Laughter Really Is The Best Medicine.


So, who enjoyed that last post?!  Whoop, whoop!

A big “hearty” thanks to my dream team (that lacked a few members) – what a post!

As you can tell from last night’s guest post – it was a fun day.  We started the day with lunch at Good Earth – delicious.  Then we hit up Crate & Barrel in the Galleria.  I could buy up that store! Love all the spring/summer colors.  Natalie and I missed our sister Caren – wish she could have been with us – but we got her a few fun gifts to make up for her absence. Next Joci and kids picked me up and we went to Celia’s to see the gang for coffee.  We got a bit of a chat in before we got ready to meet the rest of the group at PF Chang’s.  From early on in the day I was tired and didn’t feel all that great – but when we sat down to dinner – I was able to shake the tired and enjoy the evening.  It was fun to see old friends and be all together at one table.  Of course, there were a handful of faces that were missed.

Joci & Celia surprised me with a bunch of gifts.  They had planed to give me a gift-a-day while I was recovering from surgery.  Um, and they still gave me the fun gifts even though surgery ain’t happening.  How sweet is that?  Seriously, I had to keep up the chatter so I wouldn’t burst into tears – I was seriously blessed by their thoughtfulness and generosity.  I have some seriously awesome friends.

On the agenda today is Ikea and Don Pablos.  Have a great appetite – the good company and delicious definitely help boost the appetite in spite of the news.

For  all those that are praying – I think we all have been able to enjoy the last few days thoroughly.  I know I have.  Lots of laughs….I mean belly hurtin’ laughter.

Natalie and Berks leave in the morning…please prayer for safe travels, a happy baby and easy layovers!

Love to all!

{guest post} Fortunes…in Bed

Guest blog

Disclaimer: this blog entry will not have a spiritual message, there will be no bible verses because this has been hijacked by Geoffrey’s dream team (Tunz (aka dirty singer), Big Germ, Boots, the Mama, Smarty-pants, Sleepy, Mammo,  Berky-Belle).

Once upon a time, in the land of MSP, there was a gathering of special friends and family (“that’s lame”). Oh buddy, oh dear.  Oh geez, oh sh–, oh day. We ate we shopped, we laughed, we dropped (of laughter). Good Earth-only good food, no coke no processed foods…tuna didn’t know what to order, poopy diapers in a public place, unfortunately not noticed by the person who was changing her. Stopped for a mid-afternoon coffee break but lost our table to a pushy man.  15 people for dinner at PF Changs , Geoffrey’s Minneapolis posse was in the house.   boombox supper, shout out to the Libyans who are driving up oil prices to keep the bakkin’ rockin’ so boone could buy dinner at pf chang’s…thanks Boone and the Bakken! In the words of big germ, Fracl Gaddafi!!! Evening ended with cheesecake factory.

Now we sit around a coffee table with varieties of cheesecakes and our own forks.  With attention spans of ants we bounce from ridiculous topic to topic, laughing at things that will only be funny in this moment.  And no one will ever think we are as funny as we are right now in this moment.  These are the times you can only have with long-time friends.

Occasionally we mention surgery.  And now that it’s come up in this post I would just like to get something off of my chest.  We all share some responsibility for getting Geoffrey’s surgery cancelled.  Boots, well she couldn’t pull the trigger on the perfect pair of shoes for post surgery fashion show.  If only she’d had the shoes, Goeffrey could have had the surgery.  And Sleepy, she’s making it to 10:00 p.m. for the first time this week.  She’s not “hearty” enough to survive surgery.  Tunz, she’s a dirty singer and would have been banned from performing in the ICU.  It’s for the best that her talent never saw the wings of a hospital.  Just sayin’ we all share in this and we need to own up to it.  Just sayin’.

Feel free to confess if you are an accomplice to Boots, Tunz and Sleepy in the comment section of this blog.

With that…we return you to your regularly scheduled blogger….