Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Dear Abby

It's an old story, but one that people my age around the US share: starting your day by reading newspaper advice columnists.

I've been reading them since I was a kid. Not only Dear Abby, but Ann Landers (when she was alive), Hints from Heloise and Miss Manners. Nobody can top Caroline Hax, with her spot on advice and touch of snark. I find these advice columns fascinating, and I have learned a lot about etiquette reading them, including that everybody does everything wrong.

Including myself.

So yesterday as I sat down to coffee and the paper, as I have every day of my life, I turned to Dear Abby.

"Dear Abby,

I have been married for 18 years to a wonderful woman who was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer a few years ago. We don't know how much time she has left, but she feels the cancer has robbed her of her "retirement." She is trying to persuade our family to move to Florida so she can enjoy some warm weather.

Abby, for many reasons I do not want to move. We have lived in the Midwest all our lives. My elderly parent would be all alone if we move, and I still have a sibling who is also terminally ill.

I have had the same job for 25 years, and I don't want to give it up because I have the freedom to do much of my work from home, which allows me to help my wife and have income as well. If we move, there would be no guarantee that I could find a similar work situation that is so beneficial.

My wife says I'm being selfish because I'm unwilling to leave my job, family and friends to do as she wants. I understand her desire to live in a warmer climate, but I think she's the one who is being selfish.  What do you think?

---Wants to Stay Put

Well, who is in a better position to answer this question than I am?


Honey, can you do me a favor and call your wife over and ask her to read my answer?  Bring her a fresh cup of coffee while you are at it.  Thanks. Have a good day.

Dear Stage IV in the Midwest:

I understand.  I know your deep disappointment at having been cheated out of something you'd long imagined and felt was a birthright. I, too, had plans for my golden years. A hundred times, I've taken my grandchildren on imaginary walks through the zoo, flowers blooming, monkeys chattering, treating them to forbidden ice cream and telling silly stories about their parents.  I had planned to retire somewhere warm with my husband: we were thinking Arizona.  I had hoped to have the freedom to travel, see Europe maybe, spend my golden years by a pool and condo maintained by somebody else. 

But as you know by now, these dreams are just vapors. They are best case scenarios, things we hope for.  We are all smacked by reality in big and small ways, and sometimes, our plans fall by the wayside. Somebody gets sick, somebody loses a job, a house burns down, somebody has an affair, somebody gets Alzheimer's.  Life doesn't work out exactly the way we planned.  We know this - we read tragedies in the papers, see horror stories on the news, hear about the troubles of friends and relatives and strangers every day.  We think, protectively, "That won't happen to us. We'll retire in Florida in a house with a pool and a tile floor and the kids will come vacation with us." But sometimes? Bad things happen to us.

I am alarmed by the fact that you have had Stage IV cancer for several years now and have still not adjusted to your new reality. The retirement that you feel robbed of was never reality nor was it guaranteed.  You can't be cheated out of a dream.  You can't be robbed of what you never had.  But I know it feels that way.  And, you are mad and angry and upset.  

And then you supposed to adjust to reality, because you are a grown-up.

What is reality is your husband's need to support you financially and be in a position to take care of you when the time comes.  Sure, in the movies everybody has money to do their dream bucket list thing when faced with a terminal illness, but this is not the movies. While you must still be feeling well since you are dreaming of Florida, trust me, the time will come when it doesn't matter where you are. If you haven't been sick enough to realize that yet, you are doing well.  Beds, sleep and pain are the same everywhere.  

What will matter is that your husband has his support system. More than you need warmth, he needs his job, his friends, his family around as his world crumbles. Why?  Because he'll have to take care of you. I know it feels like you are the only one suffering, but remember, you are not the only one whose dreams are dying - his dreams are dying too.  He also dreamed of being with you in Florida, playing a little golf and coming home to tell you about it, having a beer by the pool with his wife. That will no longer happen for him either, so he needs to hang on to what he has.  His brother is going to die, his parent is elderly and needs support, and his wife is going to die. The burden must be immense. Can you in good conscience have him quit the job that has given him 25 years of stability and something normal to do, and move him halfway across the country to where he knows nobody, has no support and then.....leave him alone?

I couldn't.

It's time to stop feeling robbed of what you never had,  and start appreciating what you do have.  You have a loving husband who has a good and flexible job, a person who will stick by your side when you need it the most. You are very lucky. Hey, I hate the cold too but even Florida can be cold when you are all alone. Be happy that you have a man who will see you through the dark days to come, who will care for you.  Look around at your friends, your family, the life you have created for the past 25 years in the Midwest, and appreciate and enjoy it while you still can.

Now honey, can you hand the paper back to your husband?  I want to talk to him a second. Thanks, and I hope you feel well enough to dream of Florida for many more years.


I'm happy that your wife feels well enough to want to go someplace, that is a good sign.  Trust me, the day will come when she won't care about the weather and leaving her house will be difficult. I think a few vacation days are in order here.  Start planning on trips to Florida during the harshest part of the winter months.  Maybe take one now, go someplace glamorous -  Fiji or Hawaii might be nice if you can swing it and her health can handle it.  A company that has employed you for 25 years likes you, they may let you take extra vacation or you may have some built up.  Tap into that retirement fund that your wife probably contributed to and take some leave. Get your wife some warmth during the winter and something tropical as often as you can manage it.  You will be making her happy and creating memories that will last you a lifetime.  She doesn't deserve for you to give up your entire life but she does deserve some warmth and fun while she can still experience it.



What do you all think - do you agree?  Who is selfish there?


A side note:  I am thinking of having fun with my YouTube channel and doing some reviews of products for cancer patients. I have gotten requests by companies to review products but I am not in the review writing business unless it's something I really am into (meaning, I find it hard to do and don't want to turn this blog into a spam factory).  But YouTube is something else and I'm ashamed it took me so long to think of it.   What do you think?  Shall I do it?  Do you have a product you want me to review?  Something that helped you in the early days of cancer, or in the later days?

I just did a YouTube video on a scrapbook warehouse box I got (it's silly) and am thinking of doing more.  My video is here:  I don't want to embed it but if you want me to do more, like and subscribe to that channel and let me know here or on facebook, and I'll come up with something.  I am not going to do scrapbooking ones but I do love these warehouse boxes so if I get the Pink Paislee box I'll definitely do another scrapping one!


  1. As always I am blown away by your compassion. I think your answer was perfectly suited to both and you explained your thinking clearly. Great job! As far as product reviews, I would be interested to hear what you have to say. I would love to hear your input on Mastectomy bras and prosthesis. Having had a bi-lateral mastectomy in July last year...I have yet to feel comfortable! I've gone to several shops in my area and have also looked and ordered online. Nothing is comfortable. If your choice is You Tube I would watch for sure!!

  2. I agree with you completely.
    And yes, I also think the youtube reviews would be fun. I'd watch them :)

  3. And, guess what? I actually have some mastectomy bras I promised to review a long time ago. So I'll do that. The problem do I demonstrate it? Nobody wants to see that! LOL. :)

  4. Ann, I think your response was perfect to both the husband and the wife. She is very lucky to have such a supportive husband to go through this with her. After reading what a huge percentage of relationships fail when a woman gets really sick I realized that we need to try to be extra understanding and appreciative to our loyal spouses. And for your product reviews, you can probably find a torso mannequin online for a pretty good price.

  5. I think Ms. Hax would say you answered that just right.

    (pretty sure Abby column now authored by daughter of original, and they've replaced the picture you used with one of her, although individual newspapers can run whatever they like)

  6. Absolutely perfect Ann. Why am I not surprised that the wisest words I hear always come from you? xoxoxo

  7. Wonderful advice all the way!

  8. You are such an amazing woman, Ann. So much wisdom in your advice!

  9. AAACCCCKKKKK. I love you. That's all

  10. Audrey C (JanMom)May 16, 2014 at 7:40 PM

    You nailed it!

  11. You need your own advice column. Excellent advice.

  12. I love your advice column! <3


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