DEAR ABBY: I recently had to tell another patient, this time a husband and father, that the irregular-shaped mole on his shoulder was melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer. Unfortunately, dermatologists see cases like this every day.
Despite outward appearances of being healthy, this man was a prime candidate for skin cancer. Unlike many of my patients, he had spent the better part of his youth swimming and playing baseball in the sun with his skin unprotected.
Regardless of age or skin type, everyone is at risk for developing skin cancer. Last year alone, there were 105,750 new cases of melanoma diagnosed in the United States. To avoid becoming part of that statistic, your readers need to be sun smart when they have fun in the sun. They need to do such things as generously apply sunscreen, wear protective clothing, seek shade, get vitamin D safely through a healthy diet or dietary supplement and AVOID TANNING BEDS.
As a dermatologist, I can attest that practicing sun safety and getting screened for skin cancer are the best ways to ensure lifelong healthy skin. Please help me spread the word, Abby.
STONE, M.D., PRESIDENT,
DEAR DR. STONE: Im pleased to help, and thank you for your compassion and desire to protect my readers.
Folks, in addition to heeding Dr. Stones suggestions, you can also take advantage of the American Academy of Dermatologys free skin cancer screening programs. Throughout the year, dermatologists provide free screenings to help educate the public about the importance of early detection of skin cancer. (The good news is, most skin cancers average a 95 percent cure rate if they are caught early.) To locate free screenings in your area, log onto www.aad.org or call toll-free: (888) 462-3376.
DEAR ABBY: I am a 16-year-old female and have recently realized that I am gay. I came out to my parents about a year ago, and they were loving and accepting. It wasnt a problem.
My problem is I am not ready to tell any of my close friends. I am waiting until college to come out. However, because I havent come out, I still get a lot of male attention. Im worried that constantly rejecting all guys will give my secret away. Thus, I am in a relationship with a boyfriend I do not love.
I know its not fair to lie to him and pretend that I love him. I dont want to break his heart. I have already ended past relationships for no reason and have had to think up reasons to give to my friends.(Even my best friends have no idea, and I feel guilty about it.) I dont think I can lie one more time about its being the boys fault, because each guy I have dated has been perfectly sweet.
My relationship with my current boyfriend is becoming quite serious, and though I like him as a friend, Im not ready for the sex that were beginning to talk about. I want out, but Im not ready to COME out.
Please help me. I have never had a more confusing dilemma.
IN THE CLOSET
DEAR IN THE CLOSET: You are under no obligation to disclose your sexual orientation until you are ready. However, its time to stop lying to the young man you are dating. All you need to say is that you have decided not to have a serious relationship until you are in college. It is the truth, and you do not have to elaborate.
DEAR ABBY: I am a 22-year-old mother of three, a 2-, 3- and 4-year-old. I am no longer with their father. He never wanted to spend time with us.
Its not easy to find someone who will take on all this responsibility, especially someone in his 20s. I did meet this wonderful man in June 2004. His name is Alex, and hes the best thing that ever happened to us. He treats us like his own family. I truly love him.
Well, too good to be true fits my situation perfectly. A couple of months ago, I found out Alex was stealing money from me. First, it was with my ATM card. I ended up cutting it up and throwing it away. After that, I started making Alex deposit his paychecks into my account. Then I found out he had forged two of my checks and cashed them. I know some of the money in the bank was his, but he never asked me or told me. Do you think what he did was OK because some of the money was his? Alex does. And what should I do about our relationship?
DEAR CONFUSED: I know its hard to find a man, but the wonderful man you met in 2004 is a thief and a forger. For your own sake and that of your children, you should give him whatever money you owe him and end this relationship now. Unless you do, he will continue to steal from you and heaven only knows what else.
DEAR ABBY: My sister, Diane, has always dated losers. The relationships have always ended badly. Stalkers, stuffed shirts, chauvinists you name it.
A few months ago, she started dating a man Ill call Tim. I wont get into all of his nerve-wracking traits, although one of them seriously upsets me. The other day, Diane finally tried to dump him. Tim said OK, but called soon after saying he was going to kill himself by asphyxiating himself in his car, then he turned on the ignition. She heard his breathing get heavy and the phone went dead. She called the police, who found Tim several hours later in good physical health. He is in a home for now, but Diane still calls him. She says she wants to stay with him so he wont kill himself.
No one else in my family knows about this. She made me promise not to say anything. I desperately want to. But if I do, my sister will never trust me again. Please help me. Im only 19, and I cry every night because Im so scared for her. Tim gets out in a few days. I dont want him at our house. Talking hasnt helped at all. She refuses to listen to me.
DEAR WORRIED SICK: Some promises are made to be broken, and this is one of them. Because Tim has demonstrated that he is mentally unstable, your parents should be told immediately. You did not mention how old your sister is, but if shes living at home, your parents have a right to determine who is welcome and who is not.
DEAR ABBY: Im being married in six months and am planning a small wedding with family and close friends only. What is your advice on the best way to respond when well- meaning acquaintances say things like, I hope Im invited! When this happened, I was so surprised I just smiled and didnt respond.
DEAR BRIDE-TO-BE: Because someone says, I hope Im invited, does not mean you are on the hook to do so. Just smile and reply, Id love to invite you, but its going to be a very small family affair.
TO MY CHRISTIAN READERS: Happy Easter, everyone!
For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order How to Have a Lovely Wedding. Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.) Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.