Dear Abby

DEAR ABBY: I'm afraid my best friend's daughter, "Kami," may have Munchausen syndrome. People with this condition consciously fake the symptoms of a physical disorder.

Kami is 30, a former nurse, and married with a toddler. She lives to be sick. She is always in the emergency room for something. Kami often claims she has cancer and is dying. In fact, she recently told me proudly that she had "died" twice. Ladies from her church clean her house and bring her meals because they think she's at death's door, yet Kami and her husband are planning a water-skiing and snorkeling vacation.

Kami's husband and parents are extremely protective of her and become defensive if anyone suggests that Kami may not really be physically ill. A sister-in-law who mentioned Munchausen is no longer spoken to.

The final straw for me came when she arrived late to a wedding, making the grand entrance in a wheelchair, and by the end of the night was on her feet swing dancing at the reception.

She's losing friends, because to be friends with Kami means you are completely invested in her illness. Most people are staying away. She exhausts us.

I care for this young woman and her family, but don't know how to help her. Have you any thoughts? -- WORRIED FRIEND IN UTAH

DEAR WORRIED FRIEND: Until Kami's family is ready to recognize that she may have a complex emotional disorder rather than a physical illness and stop enabling her, there will be no help for her.

However, has anyone taken into consideration the effect Kami's endless dramatic crises are having on that toddler? When a parent is continually at death's door, attention that should be devoted to nurturing the child is diverted from where it should be.

Please point THAT out to your best friend. While the truth may not endear you to her, it may be the wake-up call she needs to see that her daughter gets help. Either that, or she can intervene to ensure the child receives the emotional support he or she needs while Mama is having another crisis.

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DEAR ABBY: I want to thank all the wonderful people who make biking to work possible. I am a mid-40s professional and never thought I could do this, but I am. My goal was to bike at least once a week to work -- 15 miles each way -- and I have been doing it since May and loving it!

Thank you to the drivers who respect bikers, the municipalities who planned for safe cycling, and the companies that provide showers and lockers. It has been so much fun.

I never thought I could do this because of work schedules, kids' activities and weather, but with a little thought it works. It's good, fun exercise. Help the environment, save energy and get fit, America! -- GEORGE IN MIAMI VALLEY, OHIO

DEAR GEORGE: I'm pleased that you are enjoying your healthy new lifestyle, and I'm all for physical fitness. However, I hesitate to encourage large numbers of people to embrace your challenge until both cyclists and motorists are better educated about the rules of the road.

Communities need to act now to provide safe bicycle lanes and paths for people trying to conserve gasoline. Awareness needs to be raised among drivers about the rights of bikers. The television and print media could be a significant help in this effort, and I hope they'll take the opportunity to inform their audiences.

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Abby shares more than 100 of her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "More Favorite Recipes by Dear Abby." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $12 (U.S. funds)

to: Dear Abby -- Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in price.)

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