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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: It gave me great encouragement to observe your readers' response to the Rod Carew family's pleas for marrow donors last spring. I was saddened that a match was not found for Michelle, but one never knows how many other lives were saved because of your informative columns.

Cancer is the No. 1 disease killing our children. Some cases -- like that of Michelle Carew -- resist all of our best efforts. However, the National Childhood Cancer Foundation is helping to raise the cure rate every day. Forty years ago, leukemia was an always-fatal disease. Today, 73 percent of children diagnosed with leukemia are alive and well five years later, and hopefully will go on to lead productive lives.

The National Childhood Cancer Foundation is a non-profit organization. Our goal is to achieve a world in which there are no children with cancer, and the only way to do that is through medical research. We support research projects at more than 100 of the most prestigious pediatric medical centers in the world. The improvements in the response and cure rates of children with leukemia (and a great variety of tumors) have been the most gratifying in the entire history of cancer therapy.

However, the work is far from finished. Research on the cures of tomorrow must be done today or we will remain where we are. Abby, please let your readers know that a donation made to the National Childhood Cancer Foundation gets right to work on projects that are just waiting to be funded. Those wishing to contribute can call 1-800-458-6223 for donation information, or write to NCCF, P.O. Box 60028, Arcadia, Calif. 91066. -- MEREDITH BRUCKER, NATIONAL CHILDHOOD CANCER FOUNDATION

DEAR MEREDITH: I am pleased to publicize this fine organization. I cannot imagine a more worthwhile commitment than that of the National Childhood Cancer Foundation: a world where no children (or their families) will suffer from the devastation of cancer. I wish you well.

DEAR ABBY: The letter from "Ashamed and Heartbroken," about her mother having fallen in love with a much younger man, caught my eye.

After more than 20 years of marriage, my parents were divorced. A few years later, Mother announced that she was going to marry her much younger boyfriend. (He is young enough to be her son.) All of us siblings were skeptical, but we trusted Mother's judgment and accepted her decision. That was more than 20 years ago. Since that time our young stepfather has in some respects been more of a father to us than Dad was. He has always been kind, respectful, supportive and loving to all of us.

Now with the onslaught of years, Mother has been subject to many illnesses and hospital stays. She requires care almost 24 hours a day and her ability to walk is minimal. My stepfather has always been there for her.

Over the holidays, Mother went into the hospital again. I have never witnessed a man so genuinely concerned and loving. Marrying this younger man was the best thing Mother could have done. He is, and always will be, a part of our family, and we love him. -- NOT ASHAMED OR HEARTBROKEN IN TORONTO

DEAR NOT ASHAMED OR HEARTBROKEN: Thank you for your testimonial, which illustrates that love has no age limits. Your mother is in my prayers.

DEAR READERS: Worth remembering: "The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother." -- FATHER THEODORE M. HESBURGH, NOTRE DAME

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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