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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I have a 13-year-old granddaughter who has a mustache. More and more, kids tease her about it. She tried to remove it by using something a friend gave her, but it ended up irritating her upper lip.

Her mom told her to overlook it if kids tease her, and that when she's 18 she can have it "taken care of." Until then, what is my granddaughter supposed to do? She's a sweet, beautiful girl, and my heart aches for her.

Abby, can you offer some advice to her mom, and other moms out there, whose daughters face the same problem? -- INQUIRING GRANDPARENT

DEAR GRANDPARENT: Yes. It's a common problem, and there are many choices -- a selection of over-the-counter depilatory creams, waxes and bleaches are available.

If directions are carefully followed under her mother's supervision, your granddaughter should get good results. Waxing "smarts" a bit, but it's far less painful than the embarrassment of unwanted facial hair. There is also the option of laser hair removal.

When your granddaughter is older, she and her mother might discuss permanent hair removal with a dermatologist or licensed electrologist.

DEAR ABBY: I am writing in response to your letters regarding hospice care.

As an oncologist and a hospice physician, I have seen how our society's denial of death can unintentionally deny patients choice and dignity during the final stage of life.

Today less than a quarter of patients who could benefit from hospice ever experience its comfort. And those who do are often referred too late to benefit from excellent pain management, and psychosocial or spiritual care that can enrich the end of life. Moreover, most patients are unaware that there is a Medicare hospice benefit or that their health insurance provides coverage.

Fortunately, our society is starting to explore the possibility of dying well. The Foundation for End of Life Care recently helped found the nation's first interdisciplinary institute to research end-of-life care issues. Housed in Duke University's Divinity School, it will provide much-needed education for health-care professionals and the public.

End-of-life care choices, pain management, the effect of bereavement counseling on spouse survival, and how different ethnic groups or cultures treat death, dying and bereavement are some of the topics for research. The institute will also advocate for the terminally ill in the health-care policy arena.

Our goal as a foundation is to transform dying into the final act of living well. We urge individuals to do their part by learning and talking about end-of-life options today. -- J.R. WILLIAMS, M.D., CHAIRMAN AND PRESIDENT, FOUNDATION FOR END OF LIFE CARE

DEAR DR. WILLIAMS: I am pleased that hospice is finally being discussed more openly in institutions of higher learning. I have received hundreds of letters from readers relating their personal experiences with hospice -- 99 percent positive and incredibly touching. Hospice provides a great deal of comfort to patients and their families.

There is no reason why anyone with a terminal illness should feel he or she must endure pain -- or die frightened or alone.

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