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DEAR ABBY: I have wanted to write you for years, but my ex-husband thought it was "ridiculous." We were married 29 years and rarely argued, which led me to believe we had a great marriage. Then, 10 years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had a mastectomy and was on chemotherapy for a year.

Shortly after the mastectomy we went on vacation, and my husband began verbally abusing me. He even slapped me. When the chemo caused me to lose my appetite, he told me if I wasn't going to eat I shouldn't bother coming to dinner because he didn't like me being the one who got all the attention. Believe me, I was not seeking attention. Nine years ago he announced he was filing for divorce because my health was a deal-breaker. ("In sickness and in health" was off the table.) The one time I needed his support, I found myself ALONE.

I looked up statistics and saw that 80% of men walk out when their wife is ill. It made me sick. The entire time I was going through hell, he was on dating sites looking for a healthy partner, ignoring the pain and suffering I was experiencing with not a care in the world other than preventing his various girlfriends from knowing about each other.

My advice to other women is: Be sure you put aside a nest egg as insurance to get you through life without your "partner." I was married for 29 years to a complete stranger — a selfish jerk of a man — and I am determined to keep going, if only to spite him. — SURVIVOR IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR SURVIVOR: Your suggestion to put money aside in case of emergencies is a good one for all women, not just those who might be diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. However, I'm pretty sure the statistic you quoted about the number of men who leave their wives when the going gets tough may be off the mark. Although desertion has been known to happen, nowhere near 80% of men are selfish, abusive cads like the one you married. While I don't blame you for being angry, for your own sake, please don't let spite be your only reason for living. What a waste of time that would be.

DEAR ABBY: I feel fortunate to be the mother of two healthy children. At times, I encounter other moms whose children have severe food allergies or special needs. I'm afraid I say the wrong thing when addressing them.

Parenthood is a challenge, and for some, it's more challenging than for others. I sympathize with their additional challenges. However, when I said it, they were offended. I lost a close friend because of it. What's an appropriate response when this situation comes up? — SPEECHLESS IN ARIZONA

DEAR SPEECHLESS: Parents of children with special needs are not looking for sympathy. When you are told about a child's food allergy, thank the mother for alerting you, and assure her that when her child is with you, you will be extra careful to ensure he or she is safe.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

Good advice for everyone — teens to seniors — is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)

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Jeanne Phillips
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