Monday, February 09, 2009


I was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago today. I was sitting in the repair shop customer lounge waiting for my car to be finished. I will never forget the feeling of numbness that hit me as I struggled to find a piece of paper to write on, demanding to my nurse practitioner that she read me "exactly what the pathology report says!" The numbness continued as I went home and immediately started to look up every single word of the pathology report online. I am an emergency care provider, not an oncology provider. I had no idea of what was happening to me.

I spent the first several days after my diagnosis feeling very numb yet very certain of each decision I made. There was little discussion about how things would unfold...I would do everything I could to maximize my recovery and long-term survival. I never want to look bad at the decisions I made about my breast cancer and regret something...or wish I had done something different. Thus far, I have been very comfortable with my decisions. Confident in them? Not so much...that remains to be seen.
A friend recently asked me what the experience of breast cancer was like for me. I couldn't really answer her. Today it came to me. It was like standing on a road that you could see for miles (the kind they show in movies, out there in the desert southwest) and right in front of you was a HUGE hole in the road. You can't see exactly what is in there and you can't quite figure out exactly how big the hole is but you can see the road on the other side, continuing on to somewhere in the future. I had to get over that hole in order to contine on the road that was my life. The hole is my breast cancer. I could go around it but that may have have some consequences and problems associated with it. Going over it? Probably not such a great idea. If I wanted to keep moving along on my road, I had to go through it...climb down the hole that was surgeries and chemotherapy to emerge and continue on the road.

I entered the hole with tremendous love and support. The days were dark and some of them scary but I got through it. I began to climb back out and now, continue on my road. There were some interesting lessons in the hole. I hate to say it but all of those 'living in the moment' cliches ARE true so believe them.

I experienced some tremendous losses during my care and treatment. I lost body parts, dignity, privacy and occasionally, hope. But some of these things are back...except the body parts. In fact, since my diagnosis I have lost more. What I have realized though, is through the losses comes some wins. A life. A new perspective. Different relationships with people around me. Different thoughts about life, love and hope.

So as I mark this day, I have this revelation: A loss is a win. At least it has been thus far!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Happy Birthday Piper!

Piper is 2-years-old today. We love this silly, goofy, naughty Great Dane! Her breeder has new puppies and we are going to Florida in March...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Personal Responsiblity

Something that has always been important to me is personal responsiblity. Just to be sure I thought Iknew what Iwas talked about, I turned to and put the term in. I expected to find thousands of responses. I got just 10 back. Apparently it is not the issue I thought it to be.

One website I looked at said this "Taking personal responsibility means you acknowledge and accept that you are answerable for the outcome of your life. Life always gives you the consequences related to your actions or inaction. Being responsible indicates that you accept accountability and are in control" (, para. 1). Hmmm.....

I try to take responsiblity for all of my actions. I cannot take responsiblity for those that I am not aware of, like if my words or actions wound someone. I rely on that person to bring this to my attention. In those cases, I can then take responsiblity for my actions with an apology, a change, or an ammend. I do use a very direct communication style, expecting those with whom I communication to talk back to me, ask questions and to respond to my words. Again, without that give and take, I cannot take responsbility for my words...but I would given the opportunity.

Because I feel strongly about personal responsibilty, I get very impatient with people who do not take responsiblity for their actions. I deal with this in many areas of my life. Some of my students do not like to take responsiblity for their actions. Instead of simply saying they forgot to do an assignment (or turn it in or whatever) they feel as though they must create gigantic sagas for what they missed and why they do not deserve to have any consequences for their actions. Ok. I can be a bit forgiving on this. After all, they are learning.

The ones that I get most impatient with are my comtemporaries who cannot seem to take responsiblity for their actions. These are mature adults who feel perfectly justified in stealing something from others by saying "it's what I was owed". Mature adults who will lie and implicate other people to protect themselves from the consequences of their own actions. Those are the people that will throw their "friends" under the bus to protect themselves. These are people that I do not have the time for in my life.

Imagine a world in which people took responsiblity for their actions...what if they said, "you're right, I do owe you that money." Or, "I'm sorry I lied to you about that." Or, my favorite and seemingly the simplest, "I'm sorry I hurt you."

Wouldn't we all be happier and calmer?

Reference (2009). Are you mature enough to accept responsiblity for how your life turned out? Retrieved January 18, 2009 from

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Winter Sun

Spots in which to sun yourself during the winter are difficult to find. My little Piper seems to be the master at finding the sunniest spot in the house. This was her this morning. Note...the temperature was -12 F and there is alot of snow out there!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Is this as good as it gets?

Happy New Year to everyone. Over the years I have found there are a couple of days each year that I am more pensive. Today is one of them. It's a point at which we naturally pause, look back and decide where to go from there.

We are lucky. We had a very good year. We are both healthy and my cancer is in remission. Our family members are healthy as well. We lost no one close to us this year either. Our mutts think we are the best humans on the entire planet. We are fortunate to be working in recession-proof fields and do not have to worry about layoffs or unemployment. We have plenty of everything we need and many things we don't.

Is this as good as it gets? fact, for me it is. We are comfortable and blessed. Certainly there are ways in which I can be a better human. Practicing more compassion for those around me and approaching situations more gently would be a welcomed change. Fortunately people (me) are able to change and grow at every age.

And into 2009, I plan no resolutions. They are just ways in which we set ourselves up to fail and feel bad. Regrets? Just a couple and they are staying in 2008. There is no reason to carry them on into the new year.

May 2009 offer the best to you and your loved ones. Happy New Year.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Holiday Letter

It's that time of year when our mailboxes fill with holiday greetings and inevitably, a few of those holiday letters. This year, we haven't gotten much mail from the mailbox. A few things but not as many as in the past. This could be a sign of the times for a couple of reasons. The economic downturn has many of us changing our traditions a bit. For those of us who are more 'computer savy' we are turning to our keyboards and sending paperless greetings. For Mary and I, it is more likely related to the fact that we haven't sent cards for a couple of years. Whatever the reason, it's okay. It is easy to stay connected to those we love and care about.

We have gotten one wonderful holiday letter. It's from some friends of ours that are the parents of quadruplets (you know who you are!) It's a wonderful letter with a photo. Both Mary and I enjoy it every year. It is a combination of a news update and reflections on the season. Perfect.

So here we go...M and Mary's Holiday E-Letter

Merry Christmas* Everyone!

Of course it is hard to believe that another year has passed. We all say that, and they do go by quickly. Faster as we age. We had an uneventful year and for that, we are very grateful! We spent our time in what has become our typical fashion...working very hard through the cold months so we can play during the warm ones! This spring we spent about a month working on our old boat. The bottom needed to be scrapped, sanded and painted. It doesn't sound like much but that old tub has a big bottom! It took lots of time and thankfully, we had some help from Pat and Mark. It is also a very messy job! The bottom needed some repair. We are so lucky that Mary can take care of so much of this. It is much more economical this way!

Once the spring work was done, it was time for fun. During the early part of the summer we painted the top of the boat with help (?) from Allyson and Tal Christian. I'm never sure how much help these two are...but nonetheless, the boat is now white with blue trim and it is much nicer. It was officially named "Proud Marys'"...and yes, that is plural-possesive. I checked with one of the English professors. The rest of the summer was spent enjoying our friends and family at our floating summer home. We were lucky to be visited by most every one we know, and even some we didn't. Our friend list expands a bit more every year. We particularly enjoyed our 4th of July party and heading our for 5th of July fireworks in Hudson.

But alas, summer ends and we have to cover our girl up. She's now sitting in some icy cold water covered by blue tarps. There is also no floor right now. Some "hey...let's get rid of that icky carpet in the kitchen" has turned into new sewage and water systems, floor and walls. Now I am feeling the need for new cabinets and why we're at about a new sofa? Boat projects are much like house projects.

And now for the family update. George continues going strong at 87. He's living at Mount Olivet Careview in Mpls. on a memory-unit. He is doing very well and surprises us when he rallies back from various challenges. My mom and Bob Cook are happy and well in Golden Valley. They seem to have some new house project or vacation going on all the time. Alas...that is the reason for retirement. The Goldbergers are all fine. Sam just turned 17 and Halle will be 12 in January! I don't have anyone to go to animated movies with anymore. My sister Pat continues to see Mark. I have started referring to him as my brother-in-law. "My sister's boyfriend" sounds too cheesy when you're 50! Allyson (our little Alvin) will be 22 soon and is attending school. She says she is majoring in nursing but then tells me she doesn't really like people much so I am not sure how that is going to work out for her. Mark has 3 great kids: Erin, Matt and Ashley. Along with Erin's boyfriend Shane, we have expanded our circle of nieces and nephews again and we are so happy about that. Our Norway family is doing great as well. Geirid is fine, Silje is 28 already and Tal Christian turns 19 in March. He is finishing his last year of high school and we are thinking about having him live with us full time. He is hoping to enlist in the US Navy (like his dad) next summer so we'll see.

In other events...

I turned 50 this year, mostly quiely and well-supported by alcohol.

Pat walked the Breast Cancer 3-Day Walk-a 60 mile event that culminated with camping each night. For those of you who don't know Pat that alone is an accomplishment but the fact that she walked every single step of it is truly amazing. I worked on the medical crew so got to see her at various times. I can't describe how emotional it was to see her at the end of it. I am so proud of her!

We have both returned to hockey and are playing on a women's team called the Breakaways. We are the last place team in the lowest division of women's hockey in the state. I am the lowest ranked goalie and we are having a blast! We have met some wonderful new friends through this team and while we don't enjoy those games late on cold Sunday nights, it's all fun.

It's been a great year...cancer is in remission and I feel great. Mary is doing well and starting to ponder what she wants to do with retirement. She has some work to do on the boat before we can have you all down there this summer! We have been fortunate to travel some, catch up with friends and make new ones. Below is a slide show of our year.

What more could we hope for...just that all of you are healthy, happy and doing well. Merry Christmas (*yes, we say Merry Christmas) to all of you and yours. Much love and best wishes for the New Year,

M and Mary

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

We're published.

Yes. We're published-Mary and I. A chapter I worked on for this nursing textbook was published. To those not in nursing, it isn't particularly interesting reading but I am proud. And so is Mary. I couldn't have done it without her!

Chapter 24 , page 536-548; Using Nursing Research in Practice

Here's the official citation:

Mackenburg-Mohn, M. (2009). Using Nursing Research in Practice. In J. A. Zerwekh, and J. C. Claborn, Nursing Today: Trends and Transitions (pp. 536-548). St. Louis: Saunders Elsevier.