If you want a card for a friend or family member who has cancer, Emily McDowell — who survived Stage 3 Hodgkin's lymphoma at age 24 — has created the best I've seen: Witty, warm, and acerbic.
On her blog, she explains why she created the cards: When she got sick, many of those close to her couldn't figure out what to say — or would say something that was inadvertently irritating or angering.
Most of us struggle to find the right words in the face of a friend or loved one's major health crisis, whether it's cancer, chronic illness, mental illness, or anything else. It's a really tough problem; someone we love needs our support more than ever, but we don't have the right language for it.
I created this collection of empathy cards for serious illness because I believe we need some better, more authentic ways to communicate about sickness and suffering. "Get well soon" cards don't make sense when someone might not. Sympathy cards can make people feel like you think they're already dead. A "fuck cancer" card is a nice sentiment, but when I had cancer, it never really made me feel better. And I never personally connected with jokes about being bald or getting a free boob job, which is what most "cancer cards" focus on.
With Empathy Cards, my goal is to help people connect with each other through truth and insight, which is one of the founding principles of this brand. I want the recipients of these cards to feel seen, understood, and loved.
(Thanks to Slate for bringing this collection to my attention; I've ordered a full set.)