People can be at a loss for words when someone they know is diagnosed with a serious illness. Typical “get well soon” cards just don’t seem appropriate so many people get nervous about saying the wrong thing and end up saying nothing at all instead.

When LA-based graphic designer Emily McDowell was diagnosed with stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the age of 24, she experienced this all too well:

The irony of it is, when you are sick or when you’ve experienced a loss, it’s the time when you really need people to reach out the most, and it’s the time when people don’t know what to say the most. The most difficult part of my illness wasn’t losing my hair, or being erroneously called “sir” by Starbucks baristas, or sickness from chemo. 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.

So the artist decided to do something about it, designing a series of 10 empathy cards for people with serious illnesses.

Incredibly, after 9 months of chemo and radiation, Emily went into remission and has been cancer-free for the last 14 years. For more, read the original blog post here, and see the links below for more art and design from McDowell.

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