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Ask Amy: Terminal disease is greeted with shrugging response

Dear Amy: Three years ago I was diagnosed with ALS [amyotrophic lateral sclerosis], also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. When I am sitting down, it's not always noticeable that I have a terminal illness with a dim future. For various reasons, I have needed to tell people what I am facing. Most people who know me usually respond with tears in their eyes. I've learned to accept that and help them feel better about my future by explaining how I feel.

A small, but significant, number of people, however, have responded, "Well, we're all dying of something!"

I never know what to say to those people and wonder if you had some advice on how to handle what I feel is a rude perspective to present to someone with a terminal illness.

Not Dead Yet

Not Dead Yet: This is a very tough thing to face, and I’m very sorry you are experiencing this, now.

Just last week, a friend of mine who is facing a life-threatening illness told me that she had heard the same thing: “We’re all dying of something” — from her therapist, no less. Weeks later, the comment still bothered her.

And now I wonder if this is a trend of some kind.

A Buddhist thinker is credited with the quote: “We’re all dying. It’s only a matter of time. Some of us just die sooner than others.” This is a push toward understanding and accepting the universal experience of mortality.

Friends and acquaintances might be trying to lead you toward a profound acceptance of your own death. However, this is not their job. (I assume that you would appreciate a quiet and sincere, “Oh, no. I’m so sorry to hear this,” followed by an attitude of listening.)

Supplying an unsolicited lesson on mortality is a strange way to greet another’s tough and tragic news. “We’re all dying of something” sets up a false equivalency. For one thing, ALS is a particularly cruel disease. The “something” you’re dying of is actually worse than most other fatal “somethings.”

If you were feeling particularly cynical, you might respond: “Well, how about we trade. I’ll take the thing you’re dying of and you can have the thing I’m dying of.”

A less cynical response to this comment is: “That strikes me as a strange thing to say to me.”

Dear Amy: I suspect that my dad is cheating on my stepmom. I was looking on his iPad (with his permission), when a few messages from someone I'll call "Shelly" popped up.

I have seen my dad text back and forth with her before, but I never saw what they said. I simply assumed she was a consultant of some kind.

However, she sent my dad an emoji that clearly expressed affection and called my dad "Babe."

I was, to say the least, shocked and concerned. Am I being too paranoid, or should I mention this to my stepmom? I don't have all the facts and would hate to bring up false information. However, if this were true, my stepmom would be crushed. Is it even my place to bring this up? Help!

Crushed Daughter

Crushed Daughter: People who are cheating don’t normally lend out their devices freely — because they know that evidence would be visible to anyone using it. That’s why one red flag of cheating is when a person suddenly becomes secretive and possessive of their various communication devices.

All the same, it is not appropriate for a friend or colleague to send flirtatious emoji, or to address a married person as “Babe.”

Your father is the person to address regarding what you’ve seen. Be honest. Say a version of: “Dad, what the heck . . .?”

He might be embarrassed (that’s okay). He will undoubtedly provide an explanation. It is up to you whether you choose to believe it.

Dear Amy: "Noodling on It" reported being bothered by two people at his local ramen shop who were consistently ducking under their table to vape. Noodling assumed they were vaping weed. Why make this assumption? And why would you encourage Noodling to ask them to stop?

Your answer to this busybody should have been to mind his own business!


Disappointed: I have never vaped weed, but I am assuming that depending on the grade, weed will smell, even through a vape device. And, yes, if the customers in question were taking massive rips, it would definitely smell.

The reason not to MYOB is that smoking inside — and that includes vaping — is prohibited.

© 2019 by Amy Dickinson distributed by Tribune Content Agency