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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I experienced such an incredible act of kindness and generosity from my co-workers that I feel compelled to share it.

I was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer just seven months after the death of my lovely, sweet mother from the same disease.

Besides being terrified of the disease, I was terrified of the side effects of chemotherapy, especially the hair loss. I work in a busy cancer center at a large hospital, and I have a lot of patient contact. I have observed firsthand the psychological effects suffered by both men and women.

Abby, two wonderful co-workers came up with an idea to help me. One day at work, they surprised me with a "hat and scarf party." My co-workers and people I barely knew gave me the most beautiful accessories. They bought me different colors and patterns of scarves and hats, things I would never have spent money on for myself. I was overwhelmed by their generosity.

When you are first told the diagnosis, shock overtakes you. After the chemo starts, shopping is difficult because the therapy zaps your energy. My hair loss was very traumatic, but because of my co-workers, I already had a wide selection of hats and scarves at my disposal. I will be eternally grateful.

I hope sharing this story will inspire others to do the same for a family member, friend or co-worker who has cancer. There is so much cancer that I'm sure almost every reader will know someone who must undergo chemotherapy. If you want to help but don't know what to do, cook a meal, help with shopping, offer to do laundry or clean the bathroom, or host a hat/scarf party. I guarantee your kindness will be appreciated and boost the morale of the cancer patient.

Abby, I feel very blessed to work with such caring people, so I would like to thank them through your column. Thank you, friends! -- MICHELLE IN DENVER

DEAR MICHELLE: Bless you, and good luck with your therapy. You are in my prayers, and I hope that your treatment will result in full recovery.

DEAR ABBY: My stepson is 18 and living with my husband and me. He is a high school dropout who has been arrested for criminal mischief and theft. He is now out on bail, running up extremely high phone bills calling girls he meets on the Internet.

After several attempts to get my husband to demonstrate tough love, and being met with deaf ears, I finally took it upon myself to cut off our long-distance service to the house. I provided my husband with a 200-minute phone card so he can still call his daughter in Arizona. He is furious with me for doing this "without consulting him," and says I am a control freak. I simply wanted to send a message to his son. Was I wrong in doing this? –- HAD IT IN TEXAS

DEAR HAD IT: If you are the sole support of the household, then you were within your rights. However, if you both work and share the bills or he brings home the paycheck, you should have discussed your plan with him first.

Perhaps your husband feels guilty for the way his son has turned out, and that's the reason he has failed to take a firm stand with him. This young man is putting your marriage in danger. You and your husband would be doing yourselves a big favor to get marriage counseling –- and family counseling –- until his "boy" is either straightened out or is off to the pokey.

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