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Annie’s mailbox: Selfish behavior is hurting others

Also, doctors shouldn’t ‘guess’ about diagnosis

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Dear Annie: My sister, "Carol," whom I love dearly, is self-destructing. She has been having an online affair with a guy in another state. She ditched her husband of 15 years for this guy, and the divorce was final last month.

Carol's 11-year-old daughter is not taking this well. My niece has reverted to babyish behavior. She's been throwing continual snit fits and is generally being a pill. Carol, her ex and my niece had been going to family counseling, but Carol refuses to go back because she says the counselor is on her ex's side.

Carol is now making arrangements to move to another state, where her online lover is located, and plans to sue for sole custody of her daughter, despite the fact that the little girl loves her dad dearly, and all her relatives and friends live here.

My sister is a successful attorney who is very attractive and very poised. Is this some kind of midlife crisis? Why isn't she thinking of her daughter's emotional health? I'm stressing out about it — it's like seeing a train wreck coming that I can't prevent. I've tried speaking to Carol, but she just gets angry and won't listen. Any advice for me? Or is it best to stay out of it? —Worried Sister in the South

Dear Worried: It sounds as if Carol has thrown caution to the wind. It's too bad she can't think clearly enough to put her daughter's needs before her own. There is nothing you can do to force Carol to behave rationally, but it might help to tell her how much you love her and that you are concerned. No matter the outcome, try to be a source of support for your niece. She is going to need people to look out for her.

Dear Annie: Would you please tell doctors not to speculate about what terminal diseases they suspect their patients might have before getting back the test results?

My daughter went to see her doctor about a health concern. He told her he thought she had some serious disease but had to wait until the lab confirmed it. My daughter went through horrendous stress waiting a week for the results. She couldn't work, eat or sleep.

Why don't doctors just tell their patients that tests will be done to make sure everything is OK and leave it at that? As it turned out, thank God, my daughter is in good health and worried for nothing. —Angry Mom

Dear Mom: Most doctors don't give medical predictions without good cause, and most patients like to know what their doctors are thinking. In your daughter's case, the doctor apparently cried wolf. We're glad she's fine.

Dear Annie: I read the letter from "Anonymous Minister," who asked you to stop referring people to their clergy when they need counseling. He said the clergy isn't trained to provide such assistance. That minister needs to speak for himself.

I attended two very prestigious seminaries, have served as an ordained church pastor and am now a military chaplain. I have an extra year of graduate education in pastoral counseling and two years of hospital residence as a chaplain.

Many ministers specialize in particular areas such as marriage, parenting, divorce, addiction recovery and other forms of counseling. Ministers, priests and rabbis are a tremendous resource in seeking comfort and confronting problems. Please help me set the record straight for my humble colleague. —Chaplain Phil King, lieutenant, USNR, Okinawa, Japan

Dear Chaplain King: You did a fine job on your own. Several readers also recommended the American Association of Pastoral Counselors (aapc.org), an interdenominational accrediting group for referrals. Our thanks to all who wrote.

Dear Readers: Tomorrow is National Depression Screening Day. If you or anyone you love is suffering from depression, please call 1-800-437-1200 (www.MentalHealthScreening.org) and make an appointment for a free, confidential screening. Do it today.

Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to anniesmailboxcomcast.net, or write to: Annie's Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611. © Creators Syndicate Inc.