Ask Amy: Tough diagnosis brings disclosure dilemma
Dear Amy: I am 58 years old. I was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s two years ago. My friends all know about my diagnosis.
My question relates to my sister. She and I had been estranged for almost a decade. Two years ago, I realized that our disagreements were water under the bridge, and we re-established a relationship. She lives several states away and has no contact with my friends.
I have never disclosed my diagnosis to her.
I don’t want her to come to the conclusion that I broke down the barriers between us because of my illness.
I did that because I love her, and not because I am staring in the face of my own mortality.
I also don’t want to bring stress into her life, she has enough of that, and she will fly into stress mode — that is who she is.
Also, because she is my “big sister” I also know that she will go into: “I’ll take care of you” mode (again, it is her nature), which is not what I need or want to be the basis for our relationship.
On the other hand, I don’t want her to feel betrayed when she inevitably learns about my illness.
Right now, I am able to hide my symptoms well.
When the day comes when this is not the case, I plan on telling her (and her children).
I am extremely torn as to whether I am making the right decision.
Dear Torn: I believe you are making the right decision, because – right now, this is how you are coping with a very challenging diagnosis. You have the right to control your own health information — for whatever reason you choose.
You seem to be protecting yourself from the stress of your sister’s anticipated reaction, but I want to remind you that people do not always react in expected ways.
Now that your relationship with her is on a better footing, you might be closer to breaking this news to her, telling her explicitly in advance that she can help you the most by staying calm and by letting you call the shots.
The timing of your diagnosis and the reconnection with your sister does seem more than coincidental, and, in my opinion, awareness of your own mortality is the best reason in the world to reconnect.
Dear Amy: I recently got a Facebook message from a man, “Thomas,” who said that he thinks he may be my brother (we did a DNA test proving that he is our brother). He had messaged other family members, including my half-brother, “Eric.”
When I spoke to Thomas, he told me that Eric (a newfound Christian) told him he wanted nothing to do with him because he could possibly be a product of our father cheating on his mother while Eric was an infant.
Yes, I know it's Eric’s choice, Thomas had nothing to do with it.
I am planning a family get-together soon so we can all get to know Thomas.
I don't know what to do about Eric, who refuses to acknowledge Thomas’ existence.
If I don't invite Eric, he will make a fuss, but if I do invite him, I'm scared that he will be unwelcoming to Thomas.
I’m not sure what to do.
They are the only siblings I have left, as my two older brothers have died, along with my mom.
I just want everyone to get along!
– Caught in a Family Feud
Dear Caught: Of course, you want everyone to get along! Unfortunately, you simply can’t guarantee any particular outcome.
“Eric” has declared that he doesn’t want to have a relationship with “Thomas.”
As you wisely note, that is up to him.
I think you should invite all family members (including Eric) to your gathering, without attaching any qualifications or guarantees.
There is a likelihood that Eric will decide not to attend. That is his choice, and his loss. If he does attend, and behaves poorly, that is also on him.
I hope this goes well for you and the rest of your family.
Dear Amy: I don’t always agree with you, but I admit that I laughed out loud and cheered your response to “Unsure,” the cad who was ditching his wife, who had been his medical caretaker.
The line that got me was, “No doubt you will richly deserve whatever happiness is in store.”
– Big Fan
Dear Fan: I hope “Unsure” read the real meaning behind that line.
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