What to send when you don't know what to say
May 4, 2015 10:01 AM   Subscribe

 
As someone who currently fits with this demographic, I laughed out loud at these. Thanks!
posted by Danf at 10:11 AM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yes. Every single one is perfect, especially the first. I had a cancer diagnosis for less than a week before someone told me how their friend's uncle was cured by eating blueberries.
posted by something something at 10:12 AM on May 4, 2015 [22 favorites]


Love, love, love these. Thanks for posting, sleepy psychonaut!
posted by a fiendish thingy at 10:14 AM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


As someone who is looking after someone who falls into this category, these are right on the money. Thank you for the link.
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 10:15 AM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was entirely planning my snarky comment, it was funny and pleasing and full of everything that MetaFilter loves in such a thing.

And then I clicked through, and all my snark evaporated.

These are excellent, and we need more of this kind of thing.
posted by hippybear at 10:23 AM on May 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


I love the one about punching. I do wonder for the didn't know what to say one whether I didn't know what you needed to hear might be more empathic
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:25 AM on May 4, 2015


The best.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 10:30 AM on May 4, 2015


These are awesome, as are a lot of cards on her Instagram feed.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:30 AM on May 4, 2015


The funny ones are indeed great, but I was most struck by the "I didn't know what to say" one. So honest, and so touching. I could imagine it and others like it - cards with honest but difficult to express emotions on them - could be very useful. Thanks for the post.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:36 AM on May 4, 2015 [16 favorites]


These are excellent, but to be fair, this one is applicable to just about everyone and everything in my life, regardless of health.
posted by phunniemee at 10:37 AM on May 4, 2015 [16 favorites]


Thanks for posting, and add me to her fan list. They are all just the right mix of funny and touching. My own favorite is the "one more chemo down" card. Back when I was going through treatment, I would have welcomed it to help count down the months.
posted by AMyNameIs at 10:50 AM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Holy shit, these are awesome. I got all kinds of tingly reading them.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 10:52 AM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've been thinking a lot about empathy, trying to be better at it, especially with my young children. I've been reading the (oft-recommended on AskMeFi) highly acclaimed parenting book How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk and the thing that really gets me about it is how important it is to have empathy when talking through difficult topics with your loved ones, and yet how in practice that's actually very challenging to do.

You really have to lose yourself for a moment. You have to be willing to get out of the way and just listen. The main point --and I think the cards illustrate this well-- is to not tell people how to feel about their own experience. Don't try to re-frame it as a journey or a fight or anything. Just be a shoulder.

These are inspiring. Here are a few of my own:

"This space intentionally left blank, it's for the birds. Let's get the fuck out of here and do something fun."

"No inspirational poetry today. Just a note to say hey: I'm here for you."

"You don't have to smile if you don't want to.
You don't have to be strong if you don't want to.
You don't have to be a survivor,
or a hero,
or an inspiration if you don't want to.
And you never needed anyone's permission in the first place."


"..." (followed by a personal, hand written note inside)
posted by Doleful Creature at 11:10 AM on May 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


Excellent.
posted by ElDiabloConQueso at 11:25 AM on May 4, 2015


YES. The first one especially. That was almost verbatim what I said to my friend when he was diagnosed with leukemia; unfortunately, it did not staunch the flow of well meaning bullshit with which he was inundated. It did let him know he had someone to vent to about it, though.


You will be happy to know he is doing well, thanks to good ol' fashioned allopathic medical treatment.
posted by louche mustachio at 11:25 AM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


These are great. Almost every card for illness that I've ever seen has been either flowery or incredibly dumb, the kind of thing that a five-year-old might laugh at. Instead of sending cards that have cartoon cats with giant Band-Aids on them, I send blank cards with arty photographs or paintings, and add a few words inside.

These are a great addition to the market, though, because every time I've known someone to be so ill or injured that they needed cards instead of just visits and messages and calls, they were in that bed for long enough that it was understood they might not get out of it again.
posted by Countess Elena at 11:37 AM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yes. While I deeply appreciate the card I've received, every one of these is better.
posted by donnagirl at 11:43 AM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have been through some disturbing medical procedures. I mean, more disturbing than surgery, unless you have one of those sanity-destroying surgeries where you are paralyzed but you can actually feel what is going on.


So anyway, not to wear it like a badge of honor or anything, but I told a friend who went through cancer recently, 'Don't be afraid to tell me about anything that is terrifying or disgusting,' and she said that those words were some sort of remarkable tonic.

So anyway, that's what I would put on a card: "I WILL LISTEN TO GRAPHIC DISTURBING DESCRIPTIONS OF THE NATURE OF YOUR COLONOSCOPY PREP IF YOU'D LIKE TO VENT"
posted by angrycat at 11:46 AM on May 4, 2015 [33 favorites]


Oh, god. My bestie is seriously ill (going on 2 years now, with no end in sight) and how I dearly, dearly wish we'd had these when she was first diagnosed. Because a third party told me my friend would do better if she walked barefoot on the ground every day. (She has ovarian cancer.)
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:46 AM on May 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


These are a great addition to the market, though, because every time I've known someone to be so ill or injured that they needed cards instead of just visits and messages and calls, they were in that bed for long enough that it was understood they might not get out of it again.

You know, I've thought cards were a stupid and pointless thing most of my life, but I've gotten tons of them since my (stage 1a, not-a-very-big-deal breast cancer) diagnosis and it has totally changed my whole view on this issue. Cards are awesome! Someone doesn't have to be dying for you to send them a card! I am going to send everyone in my life cards for everything now. The mail is 75% garbage and 25% bills otherwise.

Cards are especially nice because you don't have to have a conversation to let someone know you're thinking of them - and let me tell you, having the "how are you feeling" conversation is not a thing cancer patients are especially eager to do. I will never again in my life ask someone "how are you feeling?" I never know what people want to hear when they ask that question. Do they really want to hear about my gross side effects and ongoing emotional trauma? I doubt it. They want to hear "fine, thanks!" And that answer is pretty much not ever true to someone going through even the most minor of cancer treatments. Anyway. Don't ask people that question. Just send them a nice card.
posted by something something at 11:49 AM on May 4, 2015 [10 favorites]


Finally.

Finally.

Finally.

Maybe soon we'll realize that maybe some people respond well to realism and sympthathy without the emotional crutch platitudes?

Maybe soon it'll be acceptable to say, "Yeah, cancer's bullshit," and not acceptable to express, "God planned you to have cancer. Mysterious!"
posted by Strudel at 11:49 AM on May 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


Because a third party told me my friend would do better if she walked barefoot on the ground every day. (She has ovarian cancer.)

Wait, what????

Sometimes I just don't understand people.
posted by holborne at 12:00 PM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


An acquaintance of mine recently lost her five year old daughter to terminal brain cancer. (DIPG, which is a super shitty one: no cure, no treatment, 100% mortality rate.) In talking with her, she said someone told her "God must have needed angels in heaven" and it was all she could do not to respond "Fuck you, her family needed her here on earth."

When someone becomes seriously ill, everyone keeps flailing around trying to find a way to make it be OK. What they are missing is that it is not OK and it will never be OK again, and that is what we have to live with and deal with.
posted by KathrynT at 12:07 PM on May 4, 2015 [39 favorites]


...a third party told me my friend would do better if she walked barefoot on the ground every day

Yeah, there's a whole thing about "grounding" oneself to cure the ills of today's modern world of unnatural footgear: "Grounded" in woo
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 12:32 PM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


So anyway, that's what I would put on a card: "I WILL LISTEN TO GRAPHIC DISTURBING DESCRIPTIONS OF THE NATURE OF YOUR COLONOSCOPY PREP IF YOU'D LIKE TO VENT"

I am really glad to be part of a group of friends for whom stuff like this is already a totally normal conversation topic. the fact that there were like 5 people i could txt angrily "WHY CANT I POOP" directly from the bathroom post-hysterectomy and receive sincere support and commiseration was a very helpful thing. (7 days, people, 7 long terrible days.)
posted by poffin boffin at 12:33 PM on May 4, 2015 [20 favorites]


As many of you who've received sympathy cards from me know, I usually start my cards with, "Well, this is some fucking bullshit..."

I think it sets the right tone.
posted by ColdChef at 12:34 PM on May 4, 2015 [34 favorites]


"Sorry about the chemo brain. Here's a card made outvof bubble wrap."
posted by I love you more when I eat paint chips at 12:44 PM on May 4, 2015 [9 favorites]


I want all of these cards. I want to buy and send so many of these the artist has to come up with more.

I will only keep a few of them to send to myself.
posted by Dreidl at 12:55 PM on May 4, 2015


These are great, Hallmark take note.
posted by doctor_negative at 1:01 PM on May 4, 2015


I've been thinking about the whole "Here's an internet remedy I'd like to tell you about endlessly" routine that people do ever since I got diagnosed with Crohn's disease. It's astonishing how many people do it, across every demographic.

Having been one of those people in the past, I think I get it. The first response that empathetic people have to pain is to try and help. These are the people who, if I was bleeding on the street, would instantly be on their way over while calling 911 on their cell phone no matter what.

Unfortunately, it often manifests as a recommendation for something that is probably completely irrelevant to your condition, and is based on the assumption that you've done no research whatsoever into remedies for your condition. But the intention is good, so I always smile and thank them.

But no, nice lady at the dispensary, I'm not going to do shots of aloe vera when I'm on two different medications that cost thousands of dollars apiece while waiting for another one that's even more expensive. I'm gonna go with my doctor on this one.

Anyway, cool cards.
posted by MrVisible at 1:08 PM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


So anyway, that's what I would put on a card: "I WILL LISTEN TO GRAPHIC DISTURBING DESCRIPTIONS OF THE NATURE OF YOUR COLONOSCOPY PREP IF YOU'D LIKE TO VENT"

I'd like to thank my dad and his Problem Colon for making this a reality in my life.

Every few months as a child there would be a bottle of Fleet sitting next to the milk on the shelf in the fridge with increasingly desperate messages sharpie'd on the side. The favorite I remember was "JEFFERY DAHMER WOULDN'T DRINK THIS."
posted by phunniemee at 1:09 PM on May 4, 2015 [10 favorites]


I really love all of these, but my favorite might be, "I promise never to refer to your illness as a 'journey' unless someone takes you on a cruise."
posted by litera scripta manet at 1:13 PM on May 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


These are terrific. My mom has stopped telling people she has cancer, and has stopped updating people who already know on how it's progressing, just because of all the stupid comments and advice from all kinds of people who seem to think the appropriate response is to proffer a "solution" or vapid spiritual encouragement. People who are smart enough to know better, really. It's astonishing how a serious illness brings out so much stupidity in others. McDowell is right that it's the loneliness and isolation that get you the most, because people are too afraid or don't know how to talk to you about being sick.
posted by amusebuche at 2:47 PM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


ColdChef: As many of you who've received sympathy cards from me know, I usually start my cards with, "Well, this is some fucking bullshit..."

This was, word for word, what a friend of mine said with tears in her eyes after I broke the news that we had lost our baby. Maybe there are some people who wouldn't have appreciated it, but I sure did because it was exactly how I felt. It was definitely some fucking bullshit.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 6:03 PM on May 4, 2015 [12 favorites]


not acceptable to express, "God planned you to have cancer. Mysterious!"

"God must have needed angels in heaven"

I am rarely one to condone violence, but to be perfectly clear, punching is an extremely acceptable response to either of these gestures.

I just.... people say things like that?
posted by schmod at 9:23 PM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah, people say shit like that, and are offended when you give them the stinkeye.

When my Opa passed at age 70 after a 13 month cancer fight, someone told me "God needed a hero." Yeah, fuck that and fuck you. I still needed him and Baby ElderMonster needed his Great-PaPa.

My friend who said she'd like to punch cancer in the dick? SHE made me feel better.
posted by MissySedai at 11:30 PM on May 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


Wouldn't it be nice to be able to believe that, though? I always wonder if people saying that stuff would still placidly believe God has a plan if they were the ones it was happening to.
posted by something something at 6:46 AM on May 5, 2015


I always wonder if people saying that stuff would still placidly believe God has a plan if they were the ones it was happening to.

Some people do, and it does make some of them feel better. That doesn't mean they should assume it's a universal feeling, though, or even that that belief makes all negative feelings go away.
posted by jaguar at 7:02 AM on May 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Huh, I'm not that much of a fan of these. I like the honesty of the "I didn't know what to say ", as it admits to a personal failing, but a lot the others highlight how much better you are at empathy than those other jerks (who don't know what to say but are trying their best to be nice and can't help but fall back on clichés).

I do like these sentiments though:
- 'Don't be afraid to tell me about anything that is terrifying or disgusting'
- Well, this is some fucking bullshit...
posted by guy72277 at 12:38 AM on May 7, 2015


I am glad that I can't relate to these, and I'm glad that they exist.
posted by schmod at 7:26 AM on May 7, 2015


I got my mom the Mother's Day version of these cards. (By the same card designer.)
posted by phunniemee at 7:54 AM on May 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Nice interview with Emily McDowell on the CBC this morning.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:21 AM on May 19, 2015


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