Living with cancer

Cancer is often a disease that lasts a long time, and people may get treatment for many years. Sometimes, people close to the patient are very involved at first, but grow distant as the treatment goes on over months or even years. It’s understandable that you can become “burned out” when supporting a person with cancer. Still, your friend needs emotional support through all of the illness.

Remember that encouragement and support can help a person with cancer regain hope, even when they feel beaten down by cancer and/or its treatment. Also, the support of family and friends helps the person with cancer have as normal a life as their illness allows. So, if you’re going to be a support person for someone with cancer, try to hang in there for the long term. Being there and then pulling back can be very painful for your friend who needs you, and it may even be worse than never being there at all.

It’s often hard to know if you are crossing boundaries or treating your friend too much like a “cancer patient” and not like your friend or family member. Encourage them to let you know if you cross this line. Every person with cancer appreciates the friend or family member who remembers that they used to be a person without cancer – that they had, and still have, strengths and weaknesses, interests, and parts of life that have nothing to do with cancer. Sometimes being the person in the “cancer patient’s” life who remembers the whole person is a special gift.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: October 24, 2016 Last Revised: October 24, 2016

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