Dear Ann Cannon • Our very good friend has cancer — lymphoma that has metastasized. He has a girlfriend who is very strong and very committed to organic foods. They both are pretty anti-traditional medicine, and he avoids spending money on or going to doctors. BUT! After being diagnosed, he was all set to go the immunotherapy route — until his girlfriend returned from a trip and got involved. Now he isn’t using docs except he did get a CAT scan (not a PET scan because she said that put too much radiation in his body). They are treating his cancer with a strict organic foods regimen. He has lost a lot of weight (looks gaunt!) but seems to have energy and has a very positive attitude.
My husband and I have chosen to honor his decisions although we do feel that the girlfriend is the one driving his choices right now. His brother, on the other hand, is so angry that he wants to read her the riot act. Another good friend suggested an intervention. This situation is tearing relationships apart, but my husband and I are still sticking by our original decision to honor his choices, even if they are really driven by his girlfriend. What’s your opinion? Are we doing the right thing?
— Concerned Friend
Dear Concerned • First, let me say how sorry I am. This situation is all kinds of difficult for everyone involved. You’d hope that a loved one’s critical illness would bring family and friends even closer together, right? But far too often a major illness has the opposite effect. Stress can and does trigger different, conflicting responses in people —especially when the stakes are as high as they are here.
Is your response the right response? I’ll be honest. I don’t know. It’s definitely the response I would choose if this were my friend, however. As an adult, I want people to honor my decisions even if they don’t agree with them, and so I typically try to extend the same courtesy to others. Would I respond differently if he were my brother instead of a friend? Maybe. Would I want to read the riot act to his girlfriend? Absolutely. However, it seems pretty clear from your letter that your friend has weighed a variety of options for himself and decided upon the course of action he’s currently pursuing. I’m not sure it’s possible for anyone to change his mind right now. Meanwhile, keep reaching out to your friend, as well as to the others who love him, during this difficult time.
Wishing you peace.
Dear Ann Cannon • First World problem here. Real Christmas tree or fake?
— Inquiring Christmas Mind Wants to Know
Dear Inquiring Christmas Mind • First World answer here. Real Christmas tree for the win!
Dear Ann • My cat has been the best companion for me and I love him very much. He has taken good care of me for many years, and I’ve tried to take good care of him. Now he has become elderly. He has arthritis and a hard time getting around. He also has kidney failure, so I give him subcutaneous fluids, which the vet says help him feel better and help his kidneys function better and longer.
My adult children say that keeping the cat alive is selfish and that I should have him put down. Of course I don’t want my beloved cat to suffer. However, I actually do not believe in euthanasia, even for pets, and I don’t feel it’s my right to make the decision when his life will end. How can I talk to my children about this without them making fun of me and accusing me of being cruel?
— My Cat’s Caregiver
Dear Caregiver • What should you say to your children? Tell them (once again) what you’ve just told us here. You probably won’t change their minds or behavior, just as they haven’t changed yours. Each of you has a right to your own opinions, after all, although you (as the cat’s lifelong caregiver) have the additional right to keep your own counsel. Meanwhile, continue to care for your beloved pet and make sure he stays comfortable and pain-free.