For the second time in her (relatively speaking) brief foray into stationery, Emily McDowell has gone viral. Just released last week, her range of Empathy Cards was borne of (bad) experience — Emily was diagnosed with Stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma at age 24. After nine months of chemo and radiation, she went into remission and has been cancer-free ever since.
During her illness, probably the most difficult thing for her to grapple with is that “our culture is just really bad at talking about illness and suffering, and the irony is when you’re sick, you need support more than ever. Bottom line, nobody knows what to say, and my intention is to help.”
I realized this first-hand during some recent health difficulties of my own. Being seriously ill is not only a difficult subject to bring up to close friends and family, it’s tough to respond to. In one case, I poured my heart out to a friend of several decades — and was met with a stone-cold, incredibly painful silence. I never imagined that confiding in someone would make me feel more isolated and vulnerable than I already did — but it did.
So Emily — who’s already shown how fabulous she is at articulating the hard-to-articulate, with gorgeous lettering & clever copy no less — has addressed this. “There’s just nothing appropriate for people who are really sick, or dying,” she told me. “The existing selection of cancer cards feels to me like someone who’s never been sick’s idea of what a cancer patient might want to hear — like, either jokes about wigs and free boob jobs, which I personally never connected with at all, or some permutation of ‘fuck cancer,’ which is a nice sentiment, but duh.”
But enough talk — this line may not only facilitate honest conversation between ill individuals and the people that love them, it may be the first step in a much needed cultural change of attitude.
So whether it’s chronic illness, mental illness, cancer or any personal battle, this can be the first step in true support.
Shop the range here for $4.50/pop, and you can see it for yourself in Emily’s National Stationery Show Booth 1755 — and a week from today, Emily will be a part of my amazing panel of industry insiders at the show. You can bet I will be asking her about this incredible range! In a setting inspired by “The View, The Stationery View will feature not only Emily, but Anna Griffin, Dan Collier of Daniel Richards and Lisa Mattison Roberts of Rock Paper Scissors and Bed & Butter.
I am really, really looking forward to it — if you’re interested in joining the chat, you can get more info here.