Originally Published: June 25, 2018 6:01 a.m.
Dear Annie: An acquaintance from the local golf course, where we both play every week, told me he has prostate cancer. Although he went into far more detail about the discovery, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options than I wanted to hear, I listened and expressed my sympathy.
Three weeks later, I saw him again. He said he was angry with me because I had not called him. “Friends look out for each other,” he said.
The truth is that this guy is just an acquaintance, not a friend. We really don’t have much in common, and I don’t want a closer relationship. At the same time, I recognize he is in need of emotional support right now. -- Now What?
Dear Now What: It sounds as though this man could use some emotional support, but you’re not the person to give it. Even if you forced yourself, you might end up feeling resentful or pulling away, and that would only make the situation worse. Instead, refer him to other resources. You can find a database of support programs and services in your area on the American Cancer Society’s website (https://www.cancer.org/treatment/support-programs-and-services.html). With a cancer diagnosis come a whole range of complex emotions, which your acquaintance is no doubt struggling with. Try to be patient. Though you don’t have to be his best friend, you’ll never regret being compassionate.
Dear Annie: After reading the letters from “Tired of the Tips” and “Yes, I Have Tried Excedrin,” who suffer from migraines and don’t want to hear any more “helpful tips” from well-meaning friends, I’d like to offer another point of view. I, too, suffer from migraines, and I occasionally receive “new medical information” from friends. Though it’s never actually been helpful as far as relieving my migraine pain goes, I appreciate that these people are showing concern for my well-being. I wouldn’t want them to get the impression (which they might get from the aforementioned letters) that they deserve ridicule for their thoughtfulness. -- Another Migraine Sufferer
Dear Another Migraine Sufferer: The intention was not to ridicule so much as to point out that unsolicited advice, however well-intentioned, can rub the recipient the wrong way, especially regarding health issues. But I really appreciate your letter, because you’re right. Looking at things differently can make all the difference. And sometimes it’s best to just take loved ones’ unsolicited advice as a sign of their love -- whether or not we actually take the advice.
Dear Annie: I liked your response to “Workplace Drama,” who wrote about a co-worker who had a double mastectomy and is extremely upset about “Workplace Drama’s” still having breasts. But I would like to add that her co-worker’s complaint is so bizarre that I think her co-worker should go back to see her oncologist and have a brain scan. Breast cancer can metastasize to the brain, and it’s possible that this fixed idea is related to a spreading of the cancer. -- M.D. in Montreal
Dear M.D.: That is a possibility I never would have considered. And it’s another example of why I am so grateful when doctors write in and share their expertise. Thank you. I’ve forwarded your message to “Workplace Drama.”
“Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.