DEAR ABBY: I’m writing in response to “Not Talking About the Future” (March 24), whose wife has breast cancer, was told she has only a few years to live, and feels sad when her kids talk about their futures. My dad was diagnosed with stage four multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer, in 2006. He was told that even the most aggressive treatment would buy him only two or three more years. Well, he’s now working on year nine.
While I must admit that it’s been hard at times for me to stay positive about his prognosis, I try not to let it show. Instead, every chance I get, I talk about the future with him — holiday plans, plans for my wedding next year, projects around his house, etc. It helps to take his mind off the pain and nastiness of his treatments and gets him thinking about positive things.
Forward thinking has been great medicine for Dad. “Not Talking” and his wife don’t really know how much more time she actually has, and it certainly doesn’t hurt to think positively. — LOOKING AHEAD IN GLENDALE, ARIZ.
DEAR LOOKING: Thank you for your upbeat message. Read on for a sampling of what other readers had to say about that letter:
DEAR ABBY: “Not Talking” asked if he should shield his sick wife from discussions involving the future. One thing my mom, who died last year, did for the future was to take a video of herself visiting with her grand-nephews so they would have it to look at when they are older. She also bought — or gave us — things for our future adopted child, to give to him or her later on. She crafted notebooks for us to hand out at her memorial service, so everyone would have something to cherish from her.
”Not Looking’s” wife may want to consider doing some of these things. I send her, and everyone else dealing with cancer, a prayer of peace. — PROUD DAUGHTER, VANCOUVER, WASH.
DEAR ABBY: I was 13 when my father found out he had cancer. I didn’t know what it was, and no one in my family sat me down and told me he was going to die. He passed away at a hospital out of town, and I wasn’t there when it happened. When I was told, I was heartbroken.
Now, as an adult, I am crushed that I wasn’t able to have the conversations with him I needed — about his boyhood, grandparents, his time in the Navy, my dreams, and just spending precious time with him. I would suggest that “Not Looking” and his wife tell their teens about her prognosis of three to four years. They deserve to know. They should have the opportunity to discuss what’s going on in their lives and allow their mom to reflect on her own life, and her hopes and dreams for her kids. — MISSING MY DAD IN INDIANA
DEAR ABBY: Being a teenager is challenging, but having a dying parent can make it excruciating. No matter how mature the teens appear, they are not ready to deal with what is coming.
The family may benefit from the Stephen Ministries program (stephenministries.org). Stephen Ministers are trained lay volunteers assigned to provide one-to-one care to people experiencing a difficult time in life. Many Christian denominations participate. The parents can contact their local congregation to see if the program is available. — BEEN THERE IN FORT WORTH
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.