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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I had to respond to the woman who was uncomfortable with the thought of visiting a nude beach after having a mastectomy. I run a travel agency specializing in nudist destinations, and have seen literally thousands of nude people. I feel qualified to tell "Survivor" she is not alone.

I have seen people of all ages, shapes and sizes, colors, heights and weights. Most of them look like the ordinary folks you see at church or the grocery store. However, I have also seen people with surgical scars, stretch marks, missing arms or legs, piercings, tattoos, wheelchairs -- and lots of mastectomies. I had spinal surgery as a child, which left me with a large scar on my back. If people don't like the scar, they don't have to look.

It's not a beauty contest. Nudists are among the friendliest, most accepting people in the world. They don't judge others by their looks. Please tell "Survivor" to think of her mastectomy as a battle scar, the result of her war with cancer. It shows she won. She should enjoy the freedom and the appreciation of her husband, who sounds like a real gem. -- TRAVELING AU NATUREL, LAND O'LAKES, FLA.

DEAR AU NATUREL: Although some readers were shocked that I didn't take "Survivor's" husband to task for even suggesting a trip to a nude beach, I'm pleased that by far the majority of the comments have been positive. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: Two years ago, I had to have one of my feet amputated. To have a body part voluntarily amputated is one of the hardest choices I have ever had to face. It left me depressed and with a horrible body image. My friends and family were supportive, but there was still a part of me that felt very damaged.

Fortunately, I went to Australia to visit relatives and decided to make a trip to a nude beach. I was apprehensive at first, as my prosthesis was still in a transitional state and stuck out like a sore thumb. No one focused on my impairments, and I was welcomed as just another person at the beach, which meant more to me than any kind words or counseling had before.

My advice to "Survivor" is, go to the beaches, and when you feel comfortable, join the crowd in nudity. Unlike here in the states, the "perfect body" is not important. The freedom of being yourself, and being free, will mean a lot to you. Good luck, and congratulations on your continued good health. -- FEELING BETTER ABOUT MYSELF IN MINNEAPOLIS

DEAR FEELING BETTER: I'm sure "Survivor" will appreciate your input. Thank you for a terrific letter. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: About 10 years ago, when I was in my early 30s, I went to a nude beach in Vancouver, Canada. It was a perfect, sultry summer Sunday, when one truly thanks the Lord for being alive. I was sunbathing in lazy bliss when out of the sun's glare a couple appeared. They were strolling along holding hands, laughing and talking, their love and happiness apparent.

As they drew closer, I realized the woman had had a breast removed. She was probably in her mid-40s, a truly beautiful woman, glowing in the sun. I'll never forget her. Her femininity wasn't diminished in any way. Her head was held high and her carriage was mesmerizing. She seemed proud and strong as a warrior, who had merely cut off a breast to be a better archer. It made a lasting impression on me. She taught me a lot that day about being a woman, about life and love. I'll never forget the sun goddess with only one breast. -- AN ADMIRER IN SAN FRANCISCO

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600