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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I have just returned from visiting a close friend in the next town. She was exhausted from caring for her husband, who has terminal cancer -- but even more so from the many visits from loving friends and relatives around the country.

I experienced the same thing a few years ago, so I'm hoping you will help me to inform people of some basic rules for visiting families going through this profoundly trying experience.

-- Don't go for a "vacation," but rather to lend support -- and only if there is no objection.

-- Go healthy. Remember, the patient has no immunity after chemotherapy.

-- Provide your own transportation. Stay in a motel unless the home is large and the hostess has asked you to stay.

-- Keep visits short and positive. Long conversations are exhausting.

-- Provide food, preferably ready-cooked for simplicity, and do the cleanup.

-- Leave the house for periods of time (even a day or two) so the family can resume their medical routine.

-- Change the bed if you stay in the home. Remember, there is no maid service.

-- And last, require nothing of the family. There is nothing left for them to give.

Thank you, Abby, for letting me speak for so many. -- GOT IT OFF MY CHEST

DEAR GOT IT: Well said. I particularly like your recommendations to stay someplace other than the home, to keep visits short so as not to deplete the patient, and not to expect to be entertained in any way. In life-or-death situations, the normal rules of hospitality do not apply, so ask not what your hosts can do for you, but what you can do for them -- and abide by what they tell you.

DEAR ABBY: I'm a 16-year-old high school girl. I'm friendly, cheerful, religious and an honors student. I am also addicted to pornography.

Over the past few years I have been an on-again, off-again addict. I'll look, feel good, feel bad, swear never to do it again, stay clean for a few months and then start again.

A few months ago I told my mother what I was doing, and she agreed to monitor the situation. But I know how to delete my online history, so she doesn't know I'm doing it again.

I'm scared. I'm a virgin and would like to stay that way. But I'm starting to feel apathetic toward my grades, I'm thinking more about sex, I have lost respect for most of the opposite sex, and I'm one step from acting out.

If I tell Mom, I know she'll take away my computer. The best friends I have are online. I'll be isolated if she takes it away. I'm also not sure I want to quit looking. It makes me feel good and keeps me from being stressed, but my religion and the changes in my behavior tell me it's wrong.

I mentioned it to my school counselor once. She said I'm just "expressing my sexuality in my own way." Is she right? Or do I need help? What should I do? -- ADDICTED AND ASHAMED IN IOWA

DEAR ADDICTED: Forgive me for disagreeing with your counselor, but the problem with pornography is the distorted vision it gives viewers of what sex is really about. Addiction, by definition, is being consumed by and unable to stop a behavior. If you think you are alone in this problem, let me assure you that you are not.

Please tell your mother what's going on. You should talk to a licensed professional who has been trained in the treatment of addiction. This does not mean you must give up your computer -- simply moving it to a central location might help. But conquering your problem will take professional help, and I urge you not to wait to ask for it or you will find yourself in even more serious trouble.

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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