Dear Amy: Share health concerns with sister

Dear Amy: My family has a history of cancer. I lost my mother to uterine cancer, my aunt had stomach cancer and my older sister died of breast cancer.

I'm very worried and concerned about the health and well-being of my surviving younger sister.

She is a very private person, one year younger than me. She's 50 and lives alone.

As a guy, I would find it very difficult to sit down with her and talk about this topic, so how should I approach her to ask if she is keeping up with her health exams?

I'd hate to have to live through another loss due to this terrible disease, and I need to do something to calm and relieve my nerves.

Should I leave this talk to be done by any of my three sisters-in-law? Should I write my sister a letter, telephone her or what?

What is the best way to relieve me of this worry?

WORRIED BROTHER

Amy says: I'm not sure why being a "guy" would make it more difficult to discuss your family's history with cancer with your sister, but I gather that this is challenging for you.

There are times, however, when you have an opportunity to change your ways of interacting with someone -- and this presents just such an opportunity.

I think this is best handled in person -- otherwise in a phone call. Depending on how things go, you can follow through with a letter.

You ask your sister how she's doing. Then you say that you've been worried a lot lately -- about your own health and hers. Your family's history of cancer should prompt both of you to be proactive about your health. (You, for instance, should speak with your physician about having a prostate exam and colonoscopy. Have you done so?)

Share your concerns and ideas with your sister. Tell her you've made appointments for screenings on your own behalf, and ask if she is also being proactive. If your sister tells you she doesn't want to talk about it, say, "That's OK, but I wanted to let you know I'm thinking about you and I'm here to help or talk if you want."

Cancer is nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. Keep your comments neutral, be prepared to listen and make sure the door to further conversations stays propped open.

Not caving in to pressure by boss

Dear Amy: I always try to find Solomon-like solutions to problems: You don't say no, but you temporize.

Years ago a hard-charging boss put pressure on all of us employees to donate to a pet cause of his. We were supposed to give the money -- in cash, preferably -- to him.

I asked for the literature on the cause and told him I would determine if I wanted to contribute. I said I would mail the money directly to the cause. He wasn't happy, but he did it.

Subsequently, he got in trouble for his actions.

LOU

Amy says: You handled this very well -- and I would recommend your solution to anyone in a similar situation.

Send questions via e-mail to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or by mail to Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Av., Chicago, IL 60611.

Not a match on money

Dear Amy: I love my boyfriend dearly and want to spend the rest of my life with him. I've known him for a year.

At this time in my life, I am sick and tired of getting to know new people and trying to adjust to them. No one is perfect, and I want to stick with what I have.

Life is about compromising, and living together is easier when you embrace differences.

The problem is that my boyfriend's first priority is money. He is very cheap and obsessed with money. This problem is in our way.

I am a hard worker and don't want to take his money. I am not a freeloader or materialistic. He makes way more money than I do but expects me to pay for expensive dinners, vacations and entertainment.

If I had more money I would be happy to do this, but I don't. He doesn't get it.

How can I make him change?

READER FROM RICHMOND

Amy says: You seem too tired to get out there and meet a new person who might share your values, but that is the worst reason to stay in this relationship.

If explaining your financial situation and demonstrating your values don't persuade your boyfriend to crowbar open his wallet, then your only choice is to live according to his values. That's not compromise or embracing differences -- that's giving up.

If you and he don't work this out, and you choose to stay with him, you will be dealing with this issue for the duration of your relationship. Money is the primary issue that couples fight about. That's a very high price to pay to be in a relationship.

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