Life Advice



Annie's Mailbox: Somewhere in America

Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar on

Dear Annie: During a self-exam in March, I noticed a painful lump above my left breast. I was told repeatedly that painful lumps are rarely breast cancer, and that it was probably a benign fibroid. I was unable to get a doctor to take it seriously.

During an appointment for another procedure, I insisted that the doctor examine my breast. The lump was growing like crazy and getting more painful. I had an immediate mammogram, a biopsy was recommended, and I received a confirmation of breast cancer in May. By then, the lump had grown to the size of a small fist.

I am in the middle of treatment and doing well. Please tell your readers to do those monthly breast exams, and to insist on further testing if they find anything out of the ordinary, including a painful lump. Be firm if necessary. I also would like to mention these helpful websites: The American Cancer Society ( and Susan G. Komen for the Cure ( -- Somewhere in America

Dear Somewhere: Thank you for reminding our readers -- male and female -- to pay attention to their bodies, do regular self-exams, and not be intimidated when it comes to advocating for your health. While painful lumps are often benign, there are always exceptions, and any irregularity should be taken seriously.

Dear Annie: We have come to dread the holiday season. Starting in October, it's a race between various women in the family to see who will get to host the family dinner. Then several relatives will not attend because of squabbles with others. Some family members go all-out buying presents for everyone and insist on a full-family gift exchange. This can get really expensive.

Last year was financially hard for us, so we asked to do a one-person gift exchange and were ignored. We then insisted they not buy us anything, suggesting they spend their money only on the children. We were ignored again.

The holidays have become a royal pain, but we love going to the Christmas plays, family events and attending church. How can I tactfully tell my family our wishes to have a pleasant holiday season without the guilt tripping and stress, and not have everyone mad at us? -- Give Me an Old-Fashioned Christmas


Dear Old-Fashioned: The only way to win is to stop playing. Announce to all the relatives that this year, in order to return to the meaning of Christmas, you will be donating to charity as your gift to the entire family. Suggest they do the same. (Charities will accept as much or as little as you choose to give.) If they insist on buying presents for you anyway, thank them graciously, but do not reciprocate. If necessary, remind them that you already donated to charity in their honor. Keep smiling, and stick to your guns. Don't make their materialistic insanity your problem.

Dear Annie: The letter from "Not So Dutiful for Much Longer" asked how to handle the rude behavior of an elderly parent. In our family, we noticed that as relatives aged, some of them lost their emotional filters. They became contrary, mean-spirited and downright rude. Cruel words that used to be said behind our backs were now being voiced to our faces.

In my father-in-law's case, this once sweet man became so nasty that we dreaded all contact. Dad was demanding, vulgar and insensitive. After seeking professional advice, my husband and I made an agreement. The minute Dad began attacking us verbally, we would excuse ourselves, saying, "Dad, we can see you're not in a good mood for company. We hope you feel better next time."

Dad would plead for us to stay, but he still could not temper his hurtful actions. Sometimes we had to turn around and go home minutes after arriving, but it was worth it. It did not alter Dad's behavior, but it allowed us to have only good memories of him. -- Saved Our Sanity


"Annie's Mailbox" is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar. This column was originally published in 2016. To find out more about Classic Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit Creators Syndicate at




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