Ask Amy

Ask Amy: Husband’s cancer leads friends to suggest miracle cures

DEAR AMY: My husband was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer last fall. He has been on chemotherapy, but two regimens have ceased to contain it and the overall prognosis is not good. At the most, it is unlikely he will survive more than a year from diagnosis.

People we hardly know come up to us and tell us how various alternative medicine approaches (multiple herbs, specific diets, etc.) “cured” their loved ones and/or tell us how their neighbor, co-worker or friend has survived five, eight or 10 years or even that “they can cure cancer now.”

These people do not seem to know much about cancer in general, let alone pancreatic cancer – that there are different types and that different people respond differently to treatment.

I have tried to simply say “that’s interesting” to suggestions of alternative therapies and “how fortunate for him or her” to the others but, unfortunately, these people want to continue telling us what we should be doing or insisting that he can live a long time.

Since I see on a daily basis the deterioration in my husband’s condition, I find these comments and unsolicited advice extremely distressing.

Recently, in an attempt to end one of these unsolicited conversations, I told someone that they did not seem to know much about pancreatic cancer and walked away from them. I was later told that I was being rude. Can you suggest a polite way to shut these people up so they do not add to my stress and grief?

Upset

DEAR UPSET: I am so sorry you and your husband are going through this. In this context, anything other than loving kindness and gentle support from people around you is not particularly helpful.

However, understand that the person bringing this up may feel compelled or duty-bound to suggest an alternative to your husband’s medical treatment, because of experiences they have had, heard about or read about. I’m just trying to explain –- not excuse – the motivation behind the intrusion.

But please – do not engage in these conversations about miracle cures, even to the extent of pretending to listen. Look the person in the eye, say, “I think you’re trying to help, but this conversation is making things much harder for me, so please – let’s stop now.”

DEAR AMY: I have been with my husband for 10 years now. He’s 40 and I’m 37.

We have been on a rocky path for the last eight years.

I keep thinking of past incidents where my husband was selfish and mean. I start feeling resentment toward him and can’t seem to get past these thoughts.

One incident is when I asked him to make a doctor’s appointment for me because he was home all day. When I got home, he hadn’t done it. In fact, he was on porn sites and chatting to webcam girls the entire time.

I try and communicate with him about my feelings and wanting to fix our relationship, but he breaks down and stops speaking to me. When this happens, I feel worse and resent him more. He doesn’t want to break up. He says he wants to work on our relationship, but I am not sure anymore.

I suggested counseling, but he doesn’t like talking to people. He has no friends and plays video games all day. He has childish moments and moody moments. This relationship is like a chore now and putting strain on me. I already have a chronic illness and don’t take care of myself anymore.

How can I change my thoughts?

Resentful

DEAR RESENTFUL: You should not focus on changing your thoughts, but perhaps on changing your address. You offer not one reason to stay in this relationship. Your lingering and sticky resentment might be a gift; it is your daily reminder that it takes two people to make a marriage, and your husband is not doing his part.

Counseling will help you to clarify your own feelings and choices. It will also help you to take better care of yourself. I highly recommend counseling – for you.

DEAR AMY: Please do not recommend that someone should get a dog as a means to meet people. Dogs are great, loving animals that require a lot of time, work and responsibility. Our shelters are full of dogs that were gotten for all the wrong reasons. They are living, breathing, loving animals and not conversation pieces.

Dog Lover

DEAR DOG LOVER: Adopting a dog can be a game changer for a lonely person, mainly through the fellowship with the animal. But dogs also do promote interaction between people.

Email Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribpub.com.

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