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Robson is Relay For Life honorary chairman

The Commercial Management Relay For Life team has been among the top fundraisers at the event since its members started participating three years ago. This check for more than $2,900 is from the team's bowling fundraiser. Pictured from left are American Cancer Society representative Kellie Burrows, and team members Brian Zeller, Barb Brozek, Aaron Hanson, Doug Brozek, Angie Brown and Lynn Robson.

Lynn Robson was already committed to the mission of the Relay For Life by the time her mother, Mary Ackerson, was diagnosed with lung cancer in May 2010.

Commercial Management, the property management company that she owns and operates, has been a strong supporter of the Relay For Life for the past three years. Because several of the team members have been personally affected by cancer, they chose the Relay For Life as a way to bond together and raise money for cancer research.

But Robson said she was naïve to the impact cancer would have on her own life until her mother was fighting the disease. She will tell her story at the opening ceremony of the event tomorrow evening at the Hudson Middle School.

Despite a courageous fight, Ackerson died just two months after her diagnosis at the age of 64. Robson and her sister, Krista, were with their mother throughout those days, caring for the woman who had always been there to take care of them.

"We prepared meals, read cards from her support system, rubbed her back when she was sick, managed her medications, created a schedule for visitors, helped her check things off her bucket list, and many other seemingly simple things like holding her hand on car rides. We had to make each day precious at the same time help her fight."

But it was clear after the first few weeks that treatment was ineffective. The family rallied around Ackerson to make her as comfortable as they could both physically and emotionally. Robson was with her mother when she died in her Twin Cities home.

Along with her sister, Robson said her mother's brothers and sisters and in-laws were equally committed to caring for Ackerson, and by extension, caring for her daughters.

Robson said the support structure they built was seamless, with each sibling taking a day to care for their sister. One sibling from out of town, came for a week at a time, giving the rest of the family some time off.

Robson describes her aunts and uncles as a "pack of wolves," meaning it in the best possible way, protecting and caring for their sister and her daughters.

"They wanted Mom's time with Krista and I to be about being with one another and enjoying each other's company. Our role was to take her to a movie or spend time outside -- just to be together."

Mary Ackerson was an active woman who loved spending time with her grandchildren doing everything from nature hikes to regular games of kickball. As her illness progressed, those activities wound down but Robson said her mother set about making new memories for her family.

"She wanted us to plant a catalpa tree in her memory. She laughed because she knew that with the pods it gets and the big leaves, it is kind of a pain but she liked the idea we'd be thinking of her as we cleaned it up."

Robson said she and her sister, along with her daughters, and Krista's daughter, Jedah, have made it a practice to pick up bouquets for the grave from the Hudson Flower Shop for all the important days like Mother's Day, holidays and her mother's birthday.

Robson believes the openness with which her mother approached her illness helped her family accept the unacceptable. "Talking and sharing how you are feeling is so important. As caregivers we need to express what we are experiencing. The more I did, the more I heard similar stories and you start to listen in a way we haven't before. You kind of pay it forward. That is the seed of good that comes out of something so hard."

Robson said the circle of support around her mother made her understand the immensely important role of caregivers, not just to the person who is sick, but to one another. "Sharing what we were feeling and being able to just let the tears flow was such a comfort."

Robson believes that people often want to help in a crisis but don't know what to do and don't want to intrude. "But I learned to reach out, ask for support. Tell them your story and don't be afraid to say you need a little help."

These days Robson and her family are learning to live without the powerful presence of her mother. "But I still feel her around me and see her in her grandkids. My sister and I realized after she was gone that she had kind of customized her relationship with each of us, creating little traditions that were special to us individually.

Robson said she is humbled to be an honorary chair at this year's Relay For Life and grateful to have the opportunity "to share a story that, unfortunately, so many can relate to."

The Relay For Life is Friday and Saturday, June 22-23, on the track at the Hudson Middle School on Carmichael Road. A schedule of events can be found on page 5A of this week's Star-Observer. For more information, go to