Condolence cards designed by a cancer survivor


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In my own experience I’ve found that sometimes it’s the people around you who need a condolence card. Something along the lines of, “I’m sorry this is hard for you, but it could be worse. You could be the one with cancer.”

Also I think I learned the hard way the danger of saying “Fuck cancer”. I was at an office supply store and wrote that on a sample pad. That night I had my first bout of chemo-related nausea. Apparently testicular cancer has eyes.


The thing about these cards – and they are marvelous, I don’t mean to be coming down on them AT ALL – is that the people who are likely to buy and then give them are also the people most likely to be that close and supportive to the suffering friend/family member already. As a stage 3 survivor (so far) myself, I would put these cards in a prominent place as a laugh whenever I looked at them – as would any friend who came over – but by definition we’re all already the sort of people to think that way anyway. We wouldn’t need to give such a card to each other.

I agree, @SpunkyTWS: what’s really needed are the cards we can give others, the ones who aren’t driving us to chemo or calling from a store to see what we need. But not snarky…something to help a good person get over the fear of saying or doing the wrong thing, so that they don’t drop out of our lives right when we need them.


Yes, something funny that helps break the tension and says, in a funny way, “Please be here so when you say the wrong thing you do it to my face” would be great. And in retrospect I wish I’d had something funny that said, “I appreciate the offer, but it’s your positive thoughts that mean the most to me right now.”

I was thinking of something snarky that could be given to the sort of person who calls you up the night before your surgery and says, “I’m having a hard time with this”, but I think snark is wasted on such people.


My mother once interrupted me as I was explaining I was too sick to drive an hour each way at night to visit her (thanks, chemo) to complain about a hangnail. You can’t make this stuff up!


It’s sad that people still say such stupid things to people who are suffering. I know someone who had twins born early, and one died and while she was still looking after the surviving twin in the NICU a friend called her to bitch about her problems at work. Just unbelievable. Luckily I was surrounded by a really supportive group of people myself.

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I really like the ones that say stuff like, “I’m really sorry I haven’t been in touch. I didn’t know what to say”, etc. Partly because that’s sometimes exactly what I want to say. I wonder if seeing that such a card is available, knowing that the designer is a cancer survivor, would help people like me who freeze up and don’t know how to respond. I might understand that “not knowing what to say” is a totally normal reaction.

We often aren’t kind toward ourselves, assuming that if we’re speechless, there must be something wrong with us. Or that we should have “The Answer” right away (hence the horrible, shallow cliches). These cards do a service by suggesting good replies.


Some of the cards seem to be designed to mock well-intentioned but emotionally clumsy people, and to make the card giver feel superior to those insensitive idiots.

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I take it you’ve never been on the receiving end of those insensitive idiots?

Sure I have. I have also been one of those insensitive idiots more than once, so I can sympathize with a person who stumbles over his or her words or says just the wrong thing. I don’t dwell on unkind things people say to me even when I know they were intentionally being mean, never mind dumb things that generally good people say in awkward or emotionally charged moments.

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Do you understand that the “awkward or emotional charged moment” is from the perspective of the other person?

The 5 words you highlighted were not my main point, but let’s parse.

To start with, if months, years or decades after the fact you still remember a statement you found insensitive or offensive then it’s because the situation was emotional for you. To claim it’s only the other person who feels emotional is not credible. It might not have been awkward for you, but so what?

In the throes of illness or some other personal hell, many people understandably don’t look at things through the lens of others’ feelings, perspectives or intentions (although many do). If you’re lucky enough to emerge from it and you’re still not capable or willing to view people’s past actions through that lens, then you should get some help.

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It’s the fault of the hurt or grieving person if they’re upset about being treated badly by someone who claims to care about them?

I thought the point was that the person saying the insensitive or offensive thing felt awkward or emotional.

I really do not understand what point you’re trying to make, or why.

So sorry to hear
You’re going to die
Since we can’t say get well
We’ll just say goodbye

— Condolence card from a scene in Charles In Charge, in an unusually dark turn for an otherwise sunny sitcom. Probably why it remains the only bit I remember from that show.

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I can see that you don’t understand.

It was not a significant point, hence my comment about parsing. You pulled out some insignificant words in the overall context of my previous comment rather than challenge my main point–that psychologically healthy and generally decent people view others’ words and actions in the context of that person’s intent and state of mind.

If months or years after recovering from an illness or suffering the loss of a loved one, a person is still bitter over carelessly chosen or tone-deaf comments and views them as “being treated badly by someone who claims to care” then that person may want to get help sorting things out. Good people, well meaning people, say and do dumb things from time to time.

If we’re lucky enough to have people around us who care, then while we’re in the middle of our crisis, everything is about us–are we eating, are we resting, do we need anything, do we want to see this or that person, do we want to be alone, do we want the TV on, what about the lights…? We get to rant and rave about whatever we want–rational or irrational–without anyone challenging or correcting us, because people who are in the thick of it aren’t expected to be rational all the time and ought to be cut a lot of slack.

I think some people kind of fall in love with that dynamic–with being the victim who needs to be treated gently and never challenged. I think some people marinade in that weird kind of fragility long after their crisis has passed. Some of these people remain “the hurt or grieving person” forever. Their past crisis gets rolled into their identity and becomes their central narrative. Maybe they were always self absorbed, or maybe their trauma changed them in some way and they need help getting some perspective back. I don’t know. I just know that people such as these are the reason we protect happy hour locations like the government protects nuclear codes. At some point, no one wants to be around these people.

Wow. You’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how other people are wrong if they remember the way you’ve treated them.

No one here was talking about holding grudges for years. You brought that to the conversation, and assumed it was the fault of the person who was originally harmed.

You are literally victim blaming, in a thread where the “attacker” of the “victim” in the original post is cancer.

So…You’re claiming that my comments above state that it’s wrong to remember perceived offenses and that people (the victims) are to blame for having cancer (the attacker). Neither of your claims can be backed up by what I wrote.

What you seem to be trying to do here is manufacture a straw man “villain” as a counterpart to some (let’s say) generic “victim”.

I don’t like hijacking threads and I’m starting to feel like that’s what I’m doing here, so I’ll leave you to your righteous indignation and rebuttal of statements no one made. Enjoy!

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