Dear Abby: Colleague’s cancer talk annoys wife of far sicker man

As her husband suffers through years of harsh symptoms and treatments, woman wishes a co-worker would keep quiet about her recent diagnosis.

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DEAR ABBY: My husband was diagnosed with advanced chronic leukemia seven years ago. After two rounds of chemo, he was better for a while but was diagnosed with advanced multiple myeloma a year ago.

He has been through almost constant chemo and radiation, lost more than six inches of height due to osteoporosis and fractures, and can barely walk around the house or get in and out of the car for his doctor’s appointments. We almost lost him three times, but he’s hanging on. For us, this is reality. But we have a teenage daughter, and I still have to work to support us. I do not share this information at work.

A business colleague I’ll call “Amy” was just diagnosed with chronic leukemia. It’s in the early stages, with no chemo or radiation, just monitoring. Now, in every business call and video meeting, Amy talks about how she is surviving cancer and is going to beat this because she is stronger than cancer. Everyone in the office is talking about Amy being a cancer survivor and saying we should do something for her.

It grates on me because my husband is so much sicker, and she’s planning vacations and trips to concerts and telling everyone how great she feels. We all deal with disease differently, but I want to tell her to keep this to herself and focus on work. Should I, and if so, how? — RESENTFUL IN NEW YORK

DEAR RESENTFUL: I sincerely hope you will refrain from doing that. Not all cancers are alike. Everyone’s experience with this frightening disease is different. That Amy is doing as well as she is is a blessing. It could also be that she’s trying to stay positive, putting on a brave face and living her life to the fullest extent for as long as she is able.

I am truly sorry for your pain. I have “walked a mile in your shoes.” It’s wrenching and awful. But you will not lessen it by telling your colleague to keep anything to herself. Leave the room instead.

DEAR ABBY: My two sisters live in our old hometown, a five-hour drive from my current home. When they have visited, my husband, kids and I open our home to them. We even welcome their dog. They are both empty nesters who live with their husbands in spacious homes. When I visit their town, they never invite us to stay with them. Never! This has hurt my feelings.

Our parents have passed away. I recall Mom and Dad telling us that once they’re gone, we will no longer have their house, “the family hub,” in which to gather, and that we’ll need to make an effort to get together. I long for our family to be close, but I’m afraid it’ll backfire if I say anything. Thank you for any advice you can offer. — DISTANCED IN MICHIGAN

DEAR DISTANCED: I don’t think it should cause a rift in the family if you were to simply ask your sisters why your hospitality has never been reciprocated. And when you do, remind them what your parents said. There is always a reason. The answer could be as simple as their husbands being uncomfortable hosting houseguests.

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 or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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