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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Six months ago I found a lump in my breast. After a diagnosis of cancer, I decided to have a radical mastectomy. My husband and I told no one except our closest relatives.

My sister-in-law got up in church and announced to the entire congregation that I'd had surgery. My mother told all my acquaintances and even an old boyfriend.

I am very upset about this. No one should discuss someone else's medical matters unless given permission (and had I been asked, I would have said emphatically, "No!").

I feel betrayed and hurt, and I find it hard to be civil to my sister-in-law and mother now. I'd really like to move away and never see any of them again. I think they used me to get attention for themselves.

Please tell your readers to consider the person who is ill before talking about private family matters, and to ask before announcing them publicly. -- HURTING IN KANSAS

DEAR HURTING: If you told your mother and sister-in-law that you wanted your surgery kept confidential and they betrayed your confidence, then what they did was wrong. You have my sympathy for your painful ordeal.

However, I hope that you will reconsider your stance on this and not let your anger stand between you and your family. You all need each other right now. Consider the idea that they were acting out of love, and were seeking prayers and support for you from the community, as well as trying to cope with their own fears.

DEAR ABBY: My boyfriend and I have been dating for 2 1/2 years. We are both 22 years old and love each other very much and have been talking about marriage.

The problem is that Sam says that before we get married he would like to date other girls. He says he's had steady girls all through high school and never had a chance to "sow his wild oats."

I can see his point, but I'm worried that I might lose him forever. Am I crazy to agree to this? -- SCARED IN DENVER

DEAR SCARED: If you are seriously considering marriage to a young man who's asking for permission to sow his wild oats, I advise you to postpone the wedding until he is completely done. That way, you won't have to pray for a crop failure.

DEAR ABBY: I read your column daily and enjoy it very much. I have wanted to tell you about something my oldest son did that made me very proud.

When he was a junior in high school (a very small school in the Midwest), the mothers were asked to prepare the banquet dinner for the Junior-Senior Prom. While the students were dancing and enjoying the prom, several of us mothers stood near the door of the gym proudly watching our children.

To my surprise, my son came over and asked me to dance. He had a date, but he wanted to dance with me for one dance. I felt so honored and proud.

My son is now a prominent man in the business world and has a lovely family of his own.

I hope his loving gesture will inspire other young men to honor their mothers in similar ways. -- PROUD MOTHER

DEAR PROUD MOTHER: You have reason to be proud of your sensitive and appreciative son. He is a credit to your loving parenting. You raised him well.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby's "Keepers," P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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