Supporting a Friend with Cancer: Avoiding Burnout and Isolation

Supporting a Friend with Cancer: Avoiding Burnout and Isolation

b-present Team | November 1, 2023

Supporting a friend with cancer is one of the most selfless and loving acts you can undertake. Your role as a supporter is pivotal, creating a safety net of care, encouragement, and hope for your friend. But let’s be real for a moment: being on the front lines of support can sometimes feel overwhelming and lonely.

In this piece, we’ll delve deeper into the challenges of supporting a friend with cancer. More specifically, the often overlooked topic of supporter burnout and isolation. We’ll discuss how to recognize it, why it’s essential to care for yourself too, and how to find your own support team.

The Realities of Burnout When Supporting a Friend with Cancer

Burnout is the result of prolonged stress and emotional exhaustion. When you’re constantly in a caregiving role, it’s easy to neglect your own needs and feelings. It’s essential to recognize when you’re feeling drained to ensure you can continue supporting a friend with cancer effectively.

Here are some signs of burnout: 

  1. Feeling constantly drained or fatigued.
  2. Becoming increasingly irritable or impatient.
  3. Feeling helpless or hopeless.
  4. Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed.
  5. Experiencing physical symptoms, like headaches or stomachaches.

If any of these sound familiar, it might be time to reassess and recharge.

Isolation: The Silent Struggle of Supporters

Many supporters feel a sense of isolation because they believe that others cannot understand the weight of their experiences. This feeling can prevent you from seeking help or expressing your feelings, leading to further detachment from your social circles.

Finding Balance: You Matter Too

It’s essential to recognize that to continue supporting a friend with cancer, you need to be at your best too. You can’t pour from an empty cup, after all. Here are some steps to help you find balance:

  1. Set Boundaries: It’s okay to say no or to take a break. Setting boundaries protects your energy and ensures you can continue to be there for your friend in the long run.
  2. Indulge in Self-Care: Whether it’s reading a book, taking a walk, or indulging in your favorite hobby, spend time doing what makes you happy and relaxed.
  3. Seek Professional Help: Sometimes, talking to a therapist can offer valuable insights.


Building Your Squad of Support

As the saying goes, “It takes a village.” Surrounding yourself with a supportive team is vital. Here’s how:

  1. Engage in Support Groups: Connect with others who understand what it’s like to be supporting a friend with cancer.
  2. Lean on Friends and Family: Sharing experiences can offer relief and provide unexpected insights.
  3. Community Involvement: Getting involved in community activities can provide a refreshing break and foster connections.


Your commitment to being there for your friend through the good and the bad is critical. But remember, it’s equally important to prioritize your well-being. By recognizing burnout and isolation, finding balance, and building your support squad, you ensure that both you and your friend will be better equipped to face the challenges ahead.

Remember: we’re stronger together. 

Learn more about supporting a friend with cancer: