Week of:
Oct 28, 2011

Friend's mother has cancer — What should I say or do?

Dear Alice,

The mother of one of my best friends from high school was diagnosed with liver cancer a few months ago. She is quite ill and in a lot of pain. She's been in and out of the hospital lately and things don't look so good. My own father was diagnosed with prostate cancer a year and a half ago, but he is really doing quite well (with medication, treatment, etc.). My friend's mother will probably be dead within six months to a year, so I'm not going through an immediate crisis.

My question is: What things should (and shouldn't) I be saying to, and doing for, my friend? I try so hard to be there for her but I really don't know what she's going through. She is very matter-of-fact about the fact that her mom is going to die. But I'm sure there's something I could be doing, isn't there? I hate feeling like I'm actually making her feel worse! Could you give me some idea of what she might be going through right now and how I could help? Even if it's a method for taking her mind off it occasionally (if that's a good idea).

Just Trying to Help

Terrified of public speaking

(1) Dear Alice,

I have been a student for two years now and still suffer from terrible anxiety when it comes to doing a presentation or speaking in class. When it comes to presenting in front of my classmates I become so nervous that I can barely speak. I perspire; there is minimal shaking; feel so embarrassed that it even makes me want to cry. Now I even feel physically ill. It has gotten to the point where I refused to do a presentation last semester and my grade was badly affected. I know everyone becomes anxious in such situations but I truly feel there is something else going on with me because I've had to do presentations before coming to school but never felt this terrible. Even speaking in class is a very hard struggle, and my grades depend on it!

Any insight would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

— Can't Speak in Class.

(2) Dear Alice,

I have an extreme problem with speaking in front of groups of people (especially speeches). I can't do them! My voice either doesn't say anything, or it shakes like I am going to cry or something. I know public speaking is like the most common fear, but mine is one I must confront. What kind of options do I have besides books? Any ideas?

Fearful Public Speaker

Friend is depressed — How to help?

Dear Alice,

I am actually asking for a friend of mine since this situation is getting worse, and I don't know how to help. The problem is that my friend is very depressed, and has very, very low self-esteem. While sometimes able to be cheerful and "happy," he claims to rarely feel that way and mostly just hates himself. He has mentioned suicide, although I think this is more an expression of the extreme self-hatred he feels than anything. I comfort him and often tell him how wonderful he is — what a good person, good qualities, etc., but I suspect he does not believe me at all. This has been going on for a long time now, and I think it stems from a somewhat unhappy childhood and adolescence. I don't know how to help him and I don't know what to do. I feel like being strong for him is just not enough, and I can't quite convince him that counseling may do some good. It seems to me that, recently, he has been feeling even worse about himself, to the point where nothing will comfort him. He cannot afford counseling, and he has no health insurance. Is there anything you can suggest for me to tell him or suggest to him? Any help will be greatly appreciated, because I just don't how to help him. Thank you so much.

— A friend on-the-line

Scared and hopeless with herpes

Dear Alice -

I have been diagnosed with herpes simplex 2. Not fun. I am afraid, now, to consider having sex with anyone who does not have it. From the research I have done so far, I have come to the conclusion that it is unsafe to have sex, even with a condom and with no sores. I really don't look forward to being alone, or sexless, for the rest of my life, but I am unwilling to convey the disease to someone that I care for enough to have sex with. Is anyone doing research on a cure for herpes? Can you recommend reading material? Something technical that describes the viral and immunological aspects of the disease?

Hopeless in NY