Woman in treatment refuses to be ‘the sick girl’

Dear Amy: My wife is quite something, if I do say so, myself.

Unfortunately, she has cancer, and is currently undergoing chemotherapy. She has a professional practice with a large number of clients, and desperately does not want it to get out that she is sick. She has told only a select number of very close friends, her business partner, and her family.

She doesn’t want to become "the sick girl," with everyone asking her about her health. She doesn’t want that becoming the sole focus of her relationships, (private and professional).

She’s also concerned that clients, afraid that she might not survive, will leave her practice in droves.

I’m doing everything I can to support her and to reduce her stress. It would be easier if I could tell my own boss what’s going on, but I’m honoring her wishes.

Treatment is ongoing, and although she gets tired, she’s hanging in there, with the help of her business partner.

Every unexpected issue destroys her. She is a very ordered person who has a problem with monkey wrenches in her life. Cancer is that and much more.

I believe that people will support her.

Is it better for her to let people know, or to keep it a secret — hoping for a good outcome? Her odds for survival are not great.

She has all my love, support and respect for her personal choices, but how can I do better?

— Loving Husband

Dear Husband: I can’t say what is best for your wife, and you can’t, either. Her illness, treatment, and disclosure decisions must be up to her.

I can think of ways she could handle disclosure which might minimize the negative impact on her. After careful consultation, she and her business partner might choose to send a carefully worded email to her clients, disclosing that she is currently in treatment. They could add, "Due to privacy concerns, she will not communicate further about her illness, but appreciates the good thoughts of our business partners and clients. She will continue to serve clients throughout her treatment."

But again, this should be up to her.

Regardless of what your wife decides to do regarding disclosure, she should receive informed, compassionate, emotional support through an in-person or online cancer support group or (additionally) individual therapy.

The American Cancer Society offers many resources (including a live "chat" function) on their comprehensive website: cancer.org. You should also look into caregiver resources.

Learning new ways to cope with her illness and the pressures related to having the world’s heaviest monkey wrench thrown into her ordered life will have a positive impact on her emotional health.

You must love her through this, and you sound ready and able to do so.

Dear Amy: Can you put the word out that listening to your electronic devices at a restaurant is the same as using them in a movie theater?

I’ve had to hear background noise of adults AND children listening to their devices.

They should wear earphones so not to disturb the people around them.

It’s terrible to have to hear this, especially when it competes with the music in the restaurant.

I haven’t yet asked anyone to shut it off, nor have I asked restaurant staff to ask them to shut it off.

— Upset Patron

Dear Patron: I disagree with your analogy that listening/watching on devices in restaurants is the same as using them in a movie theater. In a theater, patrons are there to watch/listen to one medium, en masse. At a restaurant, patrons engage in discreet activities around their separate tables.

I completely agree with you, however, that if the volume of media at a neighbor’s table rises above normal conversation level, or is particularly annoying (as many children’s video games are), you are well within your rights to ask, "Would you mind turning the volume down — or maybe wear headphones?"

Dear Amy: As a disabled person who receives disability payments, I was highly offended that you directed "Upset Neighbor" to report her neighbor for disability fraud. How dare you suggest that a neighbor should meddle in this way?!

— Offended

Dear Offended: Several readers were similarly offended. However, in my response I challenged "Upset’s" knowledge of the neighbor’s situation and supplied a number of supportive reasons this neighbor — or anyone — would receive disability payments. The neutral tone of my answer, as well as the fact that I supplied accurate information about how to report fraud seems to have upset people who receive this life-saving financial support.