Life Advice


Health & Spirit

In-law reaction to cancer treatment creates rift

By Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Dividing: Your total transparency during this health crisis might have actually set some of this in motion, because it seems to have inspired your wife's family to believe that they are partners with you in her treatment.

Your wife surely has a role to play here. You don't mention whether she has asked her mother and sister to treat you differently. They need to be reminded that your wife is in charge of her own treatment, and that their reactions are undermining her emotional well-being at a time when all of you need one another.

You might not be able to heal this family. For now, you should maintain a calm front, conveying to your in-laws that you miss them, and that is all. Encourage them to visit with your wife. Don't discuss her treatment with them. And be aware that serious illness does make people behave irrationally. It is their powerlessness and grief talking. Fortunately, it sounds as if your wife is going to beat this. Keep your eyes on that prize.

You all might benefit from attending a family support group. The American Cancer Society ( has a searchable database for support services; just enter your ZIP code and a list of local services will pop up.

Dear Amy. I have a relative who when he is invited to a family celebration (whether it is a christening, Holy Communion, confirmation, or wedding) always shows up empty-handed (no gift).

We know that he is not financially secure, but on the other hand I would not consider him in need of welfare.

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Nobody expects him to give a lavish gift, but to me showing up with nothing at all is rude. I would rather have him respond that he cannot attend the event than show up empty-handed.

What are your thoughts about this situation?

-- Perplexed in New York

Dear Perplexed: Your examples of celebrations this man does not bring gifts to are Christian celebrations, and yet your reaction to him is distinctly not.


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