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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Receiving a diagnosis of a serious medical condition can be confusing and overwhelming. Because there is more than one "right" treatment for many medical conditions, it is important that patients gather information so they can work with doctors and other providers to map out which course of treatment to follow. While most people want more information, many do not know where to find information that's based on the best scientific research.

A reliable resource is now available free of charge -- a booklet titled, "Now You Have a Diagnosis: What's Next?" It is the result of a partnership between the Federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and the Kanter Family Foundation. It explains how to find important information and how to use that information in evaluating the risks and benefits of various treatments.

This valuable resource could help your readers to locate the vital information they need to make wise decisions. Personal copies can be obtained by calling AHRQ's toll-free number: 1-800-358-9295, TDD 1-888-586-6340, or visiting the Web site: -- ELLEN M. McGOVERN, PUBLIC RELATIONS AND MARKETING, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

DEAR ELLEN: Thank you for the helpful information. While no one looks forward to getting bad news about a serious illness, having a weapon in one's arsenal like the booklet you describe can be both a comfort and an empowering tool in fighting the disease.

DEAR ABBY: I am in my mid-50s and recently married a wonderful man after dating him for four years. He is a widower. Years ago, he purchased a gravesite marker with his name and birthdate, as well as his late wife's name and dates, and "Together Forever" inscribed on it. I should mention that they were married for 25 years and had a child together.

In preplanning my own funeral, we have decided that I will be cremated and my urn will rest in his plot. I will have a marker of my own a little lower on the plot than his, right above my urn.

I'm considering having "The Rest of the Story" placed on my marker as a humorous comment. Plus, it makes me feel included in his life -- and death. Other sayings come to mind, but this one felt just right.

Do you or your readers have any suggestions as to how to handle the trio of bodies and marker sayings? I want to be with him forever, and I respect that his late wife felt the same way. Sign me ... LIFE IS JUST BEGINNING

DEAR JUST BEGINNING: You could also inscribe it, "... and Ever," or, "Hopefully, The Last Chapter," in case you predecease him. However, before investing in a marker with a humorous inscription, you'd be wise to see how your husband's "child" feels about it -- since that's the person who will probably be reading it.

DEAR ABBY: I am retired and contemplating writing a memoir of my family's history. There are many family secrets I can reveal, but some events are shameful.

Should I include only "good" memories in my memoir? -- GHOSTS IN THE CLOSET

DEAR GHOSTS: If you feel comfortable revealing your own transgressions, do so. Do not write about anything that might be hurtful to a living family member or one who has sensitive descendants.

Dear Abby is written by Pauline Phillips and daughter Jeanne Phillips.

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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