Ask Amy: Mom not dealing with dad's cancer diagnosis

  • Article by: AMY DICKINSON
  • May 17, 2013 - 11:48 AM

Dear Amy: My father has cancer, along with other health issues. Though his prognosis is fine, my mother seems to be showing a complete lack of concern or involvement with his health care.

He has gone to oncologist and radiologist visits by himself. He was recently hospitalized after a doctor’s visit, and she did not even go to visit him in the hospital.

My biggest concern is that by her not realistically dealing with this issue now it could lead to an emotional breakdown later (this has happened to her before with another family issue).

Do you have any suggestions for her adult children to help her face reality, or is it OK to let her deal with things by avoidance?

Amy says: As a family, your immediate attention should be toward your father’s care. The most available and medically competent family member should accompany him on medical visits (if that is what he wants).

It sounds as if your mother’s avoidance is extreme. Because she has a history of emotional struggles in times of stress, you should ask your father’s treatment team if they can recommend a therapist, social worker or support group for your mother. She may have an extreme amount of anxiety about this issue (or medical treatment in general).

Obviously, your mother should not deal with this by avoidance or denial, but her impairment and your father’s illness are your family’s reality, and you should not assume she will be useful to him.

Hiding the truth

Dear Amy: The other day a close friend and I were talking about adoption. I am adopted, and my friend told me that she has an aunt who is adopted but doesn’t know it.

She is about 50 years old and has grown up thinking her adoptive parents are her biological parents; she has no idea she is not biologically related, but everyone in her family knows that she is adopted. Do you think they should tell her?

Amy says: I think an entire family knowing the truth about something as intimate and important as a person’s biological heritage while keeping it a secret from the person herself is wrong. And now you know about this person’s adoption while she is still in the dark.

As an adopted person, surely you think this woman should know the truth about her own life. You should share your unique insight with your friend and urge her to encourage her family to be truthful.

Facebook status is issue

Dear Amy: I’ve been in a long-distance relationship for a little over a year now. Things are pretty good, with the exception of one small problem. I want my boyfriend to change his status on Facebook from “single” to either “in a relationship” or simply listing no status.

He claims that he wants his privacy. He says that Facebook isn’t real life.

I think part of the problem may be that we dated in college and I dumped him but he told his friends that he dumped me, and now he doesn’t want to admit publicly that he’s dating me. My boyfriend claims that he’s told his friends and his family about us and it really is just about maintaining privacy on the Internet.

Am I being unreasonable?

Amy says: Let’s sidestep the question about how reasonable you are being and focus on the magnitude of your problem. It’s petty.

As long as you and your guy define your current relationship in terms of who dumped whom the last time you broke up, you will continue to barter about his Facebook status.

Imagine that you live in a world where what really matters is the reality of your actual feelings for each other and the personal regard you hold for each other, Facebook status aside. Imagine that you don’t care about his social network status. And then don’t care.

What kind of texts?

Dear Amy: A woman wrote to you that she was completely devastated because her live-in boyfriend was texting another woman. She was freaking out about this, and yet she didn’t even mention the content of the text messages. I mean, what if they were completely innocent or work-related? What an overreaction!

Amy says: You are right —the content of these messages was not disclosed. Based on the level of distress reported by her, I assumed the worst. In the absence of any evidence, this may have been a mistake.

Send questions via e-mail to Amy Dickinson at

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