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Dear readers: In the 21 years that I have been writing this column, I have stayed in touch with many readers whose questions have particularly touched me.

One of those readers, whose question was first asked in 2021, provided an “update” that was published in 2023. He and I continue to correspond, and I am happy to share an update to his update, as a reminder – to all of us – that time and wisdom can lead to a (largely) happy ending.

Below is the original question and my answer (shortened for space). Updates to follow.

Dear Amy: I am 58 years old. Two years ago I was diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s. My friends all know about my diagnosis. My sister and I had been estranged for nearly a decade. Two years ago I realized our disagreements were history and we resumed our relationship. She lives several states away.

I never told her about my diagnosis. I don’t want my sister to think I made up with her because of my illness. I did it because I love her, not because I’m facing my own mortality.

I know she will be stressed when she hears this news – that’s just the way she is. And because she’s my “big sister,” I also know she will go into “I’ll take care of you” mode (again, that’s her nature), which is not what I need or want. On the other hand, I don’t want her to feel betrayed when she inevitably finds out about my illness.

Right now I’m doing a good job of hiding my symptoms. When one day I can’t, I’ll tell her (and her kids). I’m very torn about whether I’m making the right decision. Am I?

Torn: You have the right to control your own health information – whatever your reason. You may seem to be protecting yourself from the stress of your sister’s expected reaction, but I want to remind you that people don’t always react as expected. Now that your relationship with her is on better footing, you may be closer to telling her this news.

The timing of your diagnosis and your re-establishing contact with your sister seems to be more than just a coincidence, and in my opinion, awareness of one’s own mortality is the best reason in the world to re-establish contact.

Update of “Torn” (2023):

Dear Amy: This is a strange, slow-developing disease that requires finding a healthy balance between hope for a medical solution and acceptance of reality. My experience with my sister illustrates what you often discuss in your column: that we shouldn’t rely on our assumptions.

Long story short, I kept my diagnosis a secret from my sister until one Thanksgiving weekend when someone out of the blue raised the question of whether our family was susceptible to the disease based on our medical history. At that point, I told the family.

I was afraid that my sister would become overprotective and overinvolved. Strangely, the opposite happened. No one in the family said anything other than a few judgmental questions like, “When did you find out?”

It was such a typical WASP family reaction (and that’s us). I’m not angry or upset – just baffled. As we got in the car to leave dinner, my partner turned to me and said, “Well, that was weird.” We never discussed the subject again after that (and it’s been a year since that conversation).

A few months later, I tried to jokingly confront my sister about my family’s bizarre reaction, but she quickly changed the subject. Nevertheless, our relationship is going from strength to strength, and I’m grateful for that. Just imagine!

Torn: Just imagine. I hope you stay in touch.

Another update on “Torn” (2024):

Dear Amy: I have always appreciated your concern and your responses to me.

This year my neurologists have expressed their amazement that my condition has not deteriorated faster than expected (they used much kinder language). I remain in their debt and continue to live the best life I can.

My sister and I are closer than ever, and I am eternally grateful for that, but I am also embarrassed by whatever it was that originally motivated our long-ago and ongoing estrangement.

Torn: Her story is one of grace in its own right; it is also a lesson in how letting go can lead to reconciliation. I know we will stay in touch.

© 2024 by Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.

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