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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I'm having a big problem with my mother, who still feels she can control my life. She is mad at her siblings, and now only one remains because her brother just died.

If I choose to stay in contact with her last surviving sibling, Mother has told me she will feel betrayed and will no longer speak to me or her grandchild.

My husband and I are very family-oriented. We feel that our daughter should know all her relatives.

Mother never told her siblings why she is angry with them, but I know. I'm not sure her reason is valid -- especially since she told me that she found out while she was in a hypnotic trance.

I think that as a 40-year-old adult, I should be able to make my own decisions regarding who I see. I know I'll be getting a call from her soon whereupon she'll ask if I have been in contact with her family. I want to say "yes," as I am not comfortable with lying.

My mother has been under psychiatric care since 1993. I don't feel I am betraying her; I just want all my family in my circle. Abby, can you help? Please answer soon in the paper. -- BIG PROBLEM IN NEW JERSEY

DEAR BIG PROBLEM: The next time your mother asks if you have talked to her sibling, tell her that if she chooses to isolate herself from the rest of the family, you think it is ill-advised, but you won't try to make her change her mind. However, that is not the way you wish to live your life, nor is it the way you want to raise your daughter. Then let the chips fall where they may.

Your mother is trying to manipulate you by using threats, and she should not be allowed to get away with it. The poor woman sounds emotionally disturbed, and I'm pleased that she's under the care of a psychiatrist.

DEAR ABBY: About five years ago you printed a letter from a woman whose husband had just died from melanoma. She urged everyone to have their moles examined by a doctor.

Although I was only 20 years old and did not fit the normal age range for people with skin cancer, I decided to go to the doctor. Well, Abby, I DID have melanoma -- usually the only form of skin cancer that can cause death. Luckily, I was able to have it removed surgically, and now I am fine.

Please continue to urge your readers to wear sunscreen and to have their moles examined. I would like to thank the wife who took the time to write to you about her tragedy, and to thank both of you for saving my life. -- THANKFUL IN LONG BEACH, CALIF.

DEAR THANKFUL: I'm pleased your story has a happy ending. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to remind my sun-worshipping readers to have this kind of checkup done annually.

Any suspicious lump, sore or ulcer on the skin should be reported to your physician if it persists for more than a week. It's also important to be examined by a physician if there is any change in the size, shape or texture of a mole, or if half of it appears "different" from the other half.

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more attractive person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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