Solving that awkward ‘what to say’ problem

I’ve not yet been subjected to any well intended but painfully clumsy good wishes regarding my illness. Maybe word hasn’t gotten around yet, or maybe I just don’t have that many acquaintances who care. (Or maybe I just have very classy friends.) But I came across an item on Slate this morning that I wanted to share.

Designer Emily McDowell has created some empathy cards of the sort she wishes she’d gotten when she was fighting Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She said the toughest part of her illness was having friends or family disappear because they felt awkward and didn’t know what to say to her, or who said the wrong thing without realizing it. No doubt she’s referring to people who say brightly, “Oh, Hodgkin’s. I knew someone who had that … but he died.” We all know the type.

Of the cards shown, this was my favorite:

Emily McDowell empathy card
Courtesy of Emily McDowell

The cards and related products are currently available at, where you can also find a list of retailers who stock McDowell’s designs. If someone you know is ill and you’re struggling to find the right words, it might be a good place to start.

(And seriously, my family, friends, and acquaintances have been awesome. I’m so lucky to have you all.)



2 thoughts on “Solving that awkward ‘what to say’ problem

  1. blooper0223 Saturday, May 23, 2015 / 11:52 am MDT

    I saw these cards a few days back when I was still catching up, and you were the first person I thought of!
    It’s always nice to know there are a lot more people out there with our particular sense of humor. My mom and my friend Mary give humor a lot of credit in their cancer recovery, as well as just being frank with people.
    And there MIGHT have been an occasional punch …

    • PiedType Saturday, May 23, 2015 / 12:38 pm MDT

      So far I haven’t felt the need to punch anyone or have anyone punched on my behalf. Lucky, I guess. Because I’m not known for my sense of humor.

"You don’t have to say everything to say something." ~Beth Moore

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