Empathy Cards For Seriously Ill People Created By Cancer Survivor

Published 9 years ago

It’s difficult to know what to say to seriously ill loved ones, so cancer survivor and illustrator Emily McDowell created Empathy Cards. Based on her own experiences and feelings during her illness, she crafted eight cards that say just the things a seriously ill person would want to hear. They tackle several topics, from things the patients really need (someone promising to be a friend no matter how hard it gets), to making fun of trite and tasteless things to irritate ill folks, such as claiming you’ve read about some miracle cure on the Internet. The cards themselves are of pleasant designs too, what with McDowell being an experienced illustrator.

“The most difficult part of my illness wasn’t losing my hair, or being erroneously called “sir” by Starbucks baristas, or sickness from chemo.” she wrote on her website “It was the loneliness and isolation I felt when many of my close friends and family members disappeared because they didn’t know what to say, or said the absolute wrong thing without realizing it.”

McDowell spent a decade working as an advertising art director, writer and creative director before quitting in 2001 and eventually getting into the greeting card business. At 24 she was diagnosed with cancer, but beat it after 9 months of treatment. Now, she used that experience to create these cards.

Here’s hoping we never need them!

If you would like to some of McDowell’s more cheerful work, click here!

More info: emilymcdowell.com | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter (h/t: boredpanda)

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“I created these empathy cards for serious illness because we need some better, more authentic ways to communicate about sickness and suffering”


“As a cancer survivor, I have a very personal stake in this game. I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma at age 24″


“A ‘f**k cancer’ card is a nice sentiment, but when I had cancer, it never really made me feel better”


“Sympathy cards can make people feel like you think they’re already dead”


“I never personally connected with jokes about being bald or getting a free boob job, which is what most ‘cancer cards’ focus on”


“As a result of my own experiences, I’ve wanted to create this collection for a long time”






“After 9 months of chemo, I went into remission and have been incredibly fortunate to be cancer-free since”

Martynas Klimas

Writes like a mad dervish, rolls to dodge responsibility, might have bitten the Moon once.

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cancer, cancer survivor, chronic illness, Emily McDowell, empathy, Empathy Cards, full-post, greeting card, illness, mental illness, post card, serious illness, terminal illness
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