Dear Abby

DEAR ABBY: My new doctor has told me I'm considered morbidly obese. We discussed the yo-yoing weight problems I have had since I was a child, and she said I'd be a good candidate for gastric bypass surgery.

My husband is super-supportive of the idea and so is the rest of my family. My mother even suggested I encourage my sister -- who is even heavier than I am -- to research it. But when I mentioned it to my mother-in-law, "Evelyn," she was not thrilled.

Evelyn is the only other overweight person in the immediate family here in Maryland. I suspect that she doesn't want to be the only heavy person in the family if I have the surgery. Her husband wants to be active and do things. He does them with my husband and me because Evelyn can't. I know this upsets her.

How can I tell her that at 28, I want to do something about my weight problem now in order to live a long, healthy life? I don't want to end up like her when I'm older -- bitter about my slimmer, healthier, more active husband doing things without me. -- DYING TO BE HEALTHY

DEAR DYING: This isn't about Evelyn. It is only about you and the fact that your doctor has recommended you consider this medical procedure. If Evelyn raises the subject, remind her that this is the case. And of course, omit any reference to the idea that she might be "bitter," or that her slimmer, healthier husband is doing things without her, because it will only make her more defensive.

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DEAR ABBY: My longtime friend Jim had a stroke several years ago. His wife was struggling to keep him at home while working, taking care of the house, cooking and doing other endless chores. She found it difficult even to get out of the house for a haircut. She confided to me the hurt she felt when friends never followed through on their general offers of assistance.

Our discussion led to the formation of the FOJ (Friends of Jim's) Club. Everyone in our "elite" group commits to spending two hours a month with Jim. The time slots we fill are recorded on our FOJ calendar. This time provides a needed respite for Jim's wife and an opportunity for Jim to interact with others and get out of the house. Because the time commitment is for a defined -- but not overly long -- period of time, people are more willing and able to make a commitment they know they can keep.

I encourage your readers to form similar "friends clubs." They can bring light and support to caregivers as well as to those being cared for. And this gift of love will circle back. I know because I'm a ... FRIEND OF JIM'S IN CHAMPAIGN, ILL.

DEAR FRIEND OF JIM'S: Jim and his wife are fortunate to have such a loyal and stalwart circle of friends as you and your fellow FOJ Club members. I have printed letters from time to time about random acts of kindness; yours is the most organized effort I have heard about. The gift of "self" you are giving your friend is the most precious gift one can give. And I hope it will be remembered by anyone who reads your letter.

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