Cancer Sucks

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Story by Jeanie Erwin

Sometimes, life deserves a good laugh, and that is exactly what Harl Van Deusen, owner and creator of Kansas City’s Zippernut Press, is determined to provide, one card at a time.

Zippernut Press specializes in unorthodox, snarky, and just plain nuts cards that you do not have to be a misanthrope to appreciate. The cards dole out large doses of humor, using thoughts people actually have, or thoughts we believe people have about us, and wrap it in a bit of cynicism for humorous and slightly off center result.

The Zippernut cards are sort of the antithesis of most greeting cards on the market. Van Deursen leaves flowery sentimentality behind and replaces it with quirky humor with a bent for the shockingly blunt. Like a good ribbing between friends or siblings, it is the kind of thing you dare not say, but do anyway.

“The cards are not intended to be taken seriously,” explains Van Deursen, “but are meant to be given to someone you know well, to kind of poke fun at life and our insecurities. They are definitely for those with a healthy sense of humor.”



Unlikely Beginnings

Zippernut Press started in 2005 after friends and family had told Van Deursen that he should put his snarky remarks to use and create cards so many times that the idea finally took hold and he decided to give the idea a try. Van Deursen, who has a background in information technologies explained, “Creating greeting cards was not something I aspired to do, but something I thoroughly enjoy.”


Snarky Cards, But Serious Dedication

After a decade, it is still a top priority to ensure everything is created and sourced locally to support the local economy as well as reducing environmental impact since it all only has to ship one direction.

“Everything is 100% made in the USA, which is very important to me,” noted Van Deursen.


The Series Benefits KU Cancer Research

One of the most popular lines of cards is the Cancer Sucks! line. Though, thankfully, he has not lost anyone close to cancer Van Deursen has had friends have very close connections to the dreaded disease, and is passionate about cancer research.

The idea for the series was created when Van Deursen’s wife’s stepsister was watching her father, who had a keen sense of humor, go through cancer. They found that the greeting cards on the market were all so solemn and while they all expressed care, they did not satisfy his need to just laugh.

“My wife’s stepsister suggested we create a line to give to people going through cancer who could appreciate the humor of blunt sarcasm as it associates to going through such a serious  disease. The cards poke fun at the disease and the issues surrounding navigating treatments. The idea is to acknowledge that cancer sucks, but it does not have to suck the humor out of life.”

The line of cards deals directly with things which are usually taboo, such as hair loss and radiation, in a way that does not sidestep such uncomfortable topics and does not attempt to keep polite appearances in the face of something so serious. Instead, they poke fun at the humorous aspects of cancer, and dole out a heavy dose of amusing irreverence toward the disease.

For every sale of Cancer Sucks! product, Zippernut makes a donation to the Susan Henke Miller Fund at the KU Cancer Center.

“Susan is a former co-worker and friend that survived breast cancer. Watching her go through that experience solidified my desire to contribute as much as possible to cancer research. Cancer touches so many lives, so in research there is an incredible potential to help a lot of people.”

“The KU Cancer Research Center is doing wonderful work, and worthy of our best efforts. However, there are many causes that need our attention, and I want to challenge other card companies and local businesses to choose one and dedicate some effort in making the world a better place,” Van Deursen encouraged.

Humor is good for telling truths, uncovering our deeply held (and often wrong) beliefs about ourselves, and helps us deal with uncomfortable topics in a lighthearted way. Van Deursen hopes that his creations help people appreciate the hilarity of life, if only for a moment.


Inside Punchlines for the Card Fronts Above

From top to bottom, left to right

  • When this is over, maybe you should just stick with obscurity.
  • Then I found out it wasn’t in your brain, so I’m still stumped.
  • There’s no reason it shouldn’t work for you, too.
  • But I’ll bet you’re going to end up saving a bundle on haircuts.
  • But since you started treatments, you’re radiating more than just beauty.
  • It must be the high-quality radioactive isotopes.

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