TV’s Most Touching Shows About Living with Cancer

Navigating the delicate terrain of illness and resilience, certain television shows have artfully captured the profound impact of cancer on individuals and their loved ones. These poignant narratives not only shed light on the physical and emotional challenges faced by those affected but also explore the strength, hope, and human connections that emerge in the face of adversity.

With compelling storytelling and powerful performances, these TV shows about cancer invite viewers into a world where characters confront their mortality, grapple with the complexities of treatment, and find solace in the bonds that endure amidst the trials of life. They not only raise awareness about the realities of cancer but also inspire empathy and understanding, making them both emotionally impactful and socially relevant.

The Big C, Showtime (2010 – 2013)

The Big C centers around Cathy Jamison, a high school teacher who shakes up her life after being diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Opting for a secret approach to her diagnosis, Cathy grapples with the challenges of treatment while trying to maintain a sense of normalcy.

The series takes viewers on a rollercoaster ride through Cathy’s ups and downs, exploring her relationships with family and friends as they become entwined with her journey. Along the way, unexpected connections, humorous moments, and emotional revelations pepper the narrative.

The show skillfully showcases Cathy’s determination to embrace life, make meaningful connections, and find joy despite the harsh realities of her situation.

Chasing Life, ABC Family (2014 – 2015)

Chasing Life revolves around April Carver, a young aspiring journalist whose life takes an unexpected turn. One day she is working hard to climb the ranks at work and maintain her relationships with her mother, sister, and grandmother, and the next day she is diagnosed with leukemia – and the news comes from an unexpected source, at that.

Balancing her career aspirations, relationships, and the challenges of cancer treatment, April embarks on a journey of self-discovery and resilience.

The series follows her as she navigates the emotional complexities of her diagnosis, forms unexpected connections with fellow patients, and grapples with the impact of her illness on her family and friends.

Red Band Society, Fox (2014 – 2015)

Based on the original Spanish series Polseres Vermelles, the American remake Red Band Society follows a group of teenagers living in a pediatric ward of a hospital, forming an unlikely bond as they navigate the challenges of serious illnesses.

Led by charismatic troublemaker Leo Roth, the group creates their own unique community within the hospital’s walls. Each character brings their own struggles and personalities into the mix, ranging from budding romances to personal revelations.

The series explores their friendships, dreams, and the humor they find in the midst of adversity. As they face the uncertainties of their medical conditions, the teens form a tight-knit family, supporting each other through the ups and downs of life in the “Red Band” ward.

This Life, CBC Television (2015 – 2016)

This Life revolves around Natalie Lawson, a lifestyle columnist whose world is turned upside down when she discovers she has terminal cancer.

Juggling her career, complex family dynamics, and the emotional toll of her diagnosis, Natalie strives to find meaning and connection in her remaining time.

The show delves into the impact of Natalie’s illness on her relationships with her two adult children and explores how the family copes with the challenges brought on by her impending mortality, especially as she tries to prepare them for life without her.

This Life paints a poignant picture of a woman confronting the fragility of life, addressing themes of love, loss, and the quest for fulfillment in the face of a terminal illness.

Alexa & Katie, Netflix (2018 – 2020)

Alexa & Katie follows the close-knit friendship between Alexa Mendoza and Katie Cooper as they navigate high school while dealing with Alexa’s cancer diagnosis.

The series captures the duo’s humorous and heartwarming approach to facing the challenges of adolescence alongside the realities of cancer treatment.

Alexa’s vibrant personality and Katie’s unwavering support form the core of the show, as they navigate the ups and downs of school, relationships, and Alexa’s health.

Viewers will witness the balance between light-hearted moments and the more serious aspects of Alexa’s journey, emphasizing the strength of their friendship as they tackle the hurdles that come with both teenage life and a cancer diagnosis.

Side Order of Life, Lifetime Television (2007)

Side Order of Life centers around magazine photographer Jenny McIntyre, whose life takes an unexpected turn when her best friend Vivy Porter’s cancer diagnosis prompts her to reevaluate her own priorities.

Jenny grapples with the complexities of love, work, and friendship as she navigates the challenges brought on by her friend’s illness.

The series explores the ripple effects of cancer on relationships and personal growth, highlighting Jenny’s journey of self-discovery. As she confronts the fragility of life, Jenny is forced to reassess her values and make profound decisions that shape her future.

Through drama, humor, and heartfelt moments, Side Order of Life portrays the profound impact of a cancer diagnosis on one woman’s perspective and the lives of those around her.

Zac and Mia, AwesomenessTV (2017)

The web series Zac and Mia was based on the YA novel of the same name and revolves around the lives of two teenagers, Zac Meier and Mia Phillips, who meet in a hospital while undergoing cancer treatment.

The series captures their unconventional friendship as they navigate the challenges of illness, forming a unique bond that transcends the confines of the hospital walls.

Zac, an optimistic and outgoing athlete, contrasts with Mia, a sarcastic and introspective artist, creating a dynamic relationship filled with humor and heart.

As they confront the uncertainties of their health, the duo provides support for each other in unexpected ways, forging a connection that goes beyond their shared medical struggles.

One Mississippi, Amazon Prime Video (2015 – 2017)

The semi-autobiographical series One Mississippi follows comedian Tig Bavaro as she returns to her hometown in Mississippi to deal with family matters.

Tig grapples with the recent death of her mother and her own battle with cancer. The series delves into the complexities of grief, family dynamics, and Tig’s efforts to come to terms with her past.

As she navigates the challenges of her hometown and confronts the impact of loss and illness, Tig finds herself entangled in both humorous and poignant moments.

Through the show, we see the raw and sometimes darkly comedic aspects of life when on a journey of healing and self-discovery in the midst of personal and familial struggles.

Sense of Tumour, Czech Television (2024 – present)

Sense of Tumour (or Smysl pro tumor in the original Czech) revolves around the life of Filip, a young and ambitious medical student whose world is turned upside down when he is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.

The series humorously navigates Filip’s journey through the challenges of treatment, hospital life, and the impact of his diagnosis on his relationships.

Despite the gravity of his situation, he approaches life with a positive attitude and an irreverent sense of humor. As he contends with the ups and downs of cancer, the show portrays the resilience and camaraderie, and balances the seriousness of illness with moments of levity to offer a unique perspective on facing adversity with courage and a touch of laughter.

Nouvelle Adresse, ICI Radio-Canada Télé (2014 – 2015)

French series Nouvelle Adresse follows the life of Nathalie Lapointe, a woman whose world is upended when she receives a cancer diagnosis.

Two years ago, she had already recovered from the same diagnosis and facing the diagnosis a second time proves to be twice the challenge – and heartbreak – as well.

As Nathalie confronts the challenges of her illness, the series explores the impact on her relationships, career, and personal identity. Striving to find a new balance in the face of adversity, Nathalie navigates the complexities of treatment while seeking solace and support from those around her.

Superman & Lois (season 3), The CW (2021 – present)

Superhero favorites got another series to their name with The CW’s Superman & Lois, which revolves around Clark Kent (Superman) and his world-famous journalist wife, Lois Lane, as they navigate the challenges of parenthood while dealing with the complexities of Clark’s superhero responsibilities.

The couple moves back to Smallville with their two teenage sons, Jonathan and Jordan.

In season 3, which aired in 2023, Lois finally reveals to her husband and children that she has been diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. The rest of the season centers on how the family deals with the diagnosis, sharing their troubles with other family members and attempting to continue their wider social responsibilities despite Lois’ sickness.

The Girls at the Back, Netflix (2022)

It’s always a bit of a relief when sensitive topics like disease and illness are tackled with a healthy dose of humor, as it’s a welcome distraction from the heaviness of it.

The Spanish Netflix original series The Girls at the Back is one of those comedy-drama shows, and it deals with the sensitive issue of cancer not by placing the diagnosed character right at the center.

Instead, the focus is on the deep relationship between her and her 30-something friends, who take their traditional annual trip together with the intention of crossing off items on their bucket list after they learn of their dear friend’s cancer diagnosis.

Chemo Brain, TV2 (2019)

The multi-award-winning Danish dramedy series Chemo Brain aired over just 5 episodes and gained international recognition for its several nominations and accolades won.

The touching drama centers on 28-year-old Oliver, whose life has always been about relaxing with himself, his friends, and his girlfriend. When he discovers that he has testicular cancer, however, his carefree life is suddenly thrust into the four walls of a hospital.

He seeks comfort in his best friend, his father, and a fellow patient, all while dealing with the sudden 180-degree turn his life took him on.

Breaking Bad, AMC (2008 – 2013)

Breaking Bad is a critically acclaimed American television series that revolves around Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher turned methamphetamine manufacturer – the latter being a choice he made after he learned of his Stage 3 lung cancer diagnosis.

White partners with a former student, Jesse Pinkman, to navigate the dangerous world of illegal drug trade.

As White’s descent into criminality progresses, the series explores the consequences of his choices on himself, his family, and those around him.

Breaking Bad has been widely praised for its intense storytelling, character development, and moral complexities, becoming widely regarded as one of the greatest TV series of all time.

Mayflies, BBC One (2022)

As far as miniseries’ go, BBC One’s Mayflies is one of the easier ones to binge on this list, being just two episodes long!

The drama is adapted from the 2020 novel of the same name by Andrew O’Hagan. It follows the heartwarming – and equally heartbreaking – friendship between Jimmy and Tully, who first met in a small Scottish town in 1986.

Though they became fast friends, their lives eventually went down different paths, though this distance never dampened their bond.

30 years later, Jimmy receives one of the worst phone calls of his life: devastating news of his lifetime best friend’s terminal cancer diagnosis.

A Million Little Things, ABC (2018 – 2023)

The title of the drama series A Million Little Things is an homage to the age-old adage: “Friendship isn’t a big thing, it’s a million tiny things”.

At the center of it, then, is a group of friends who are suddenly faced with the fragility of life when one of them unexpectedly completes suicide. As they navigate the complexities of grief, secrets, and personal struggles, the group discovers the importance of being there for one another in times of hardship, particularly as one of them is also a survivor of breast cancer.

The show explores the profound impact of a single event on a group of friends and how they find solace and support in each other.

4Jim, NPO 3 (2015)

The Dutch series 4Jim is a different one in many ways.

First of all, as an interactive series, viewers were invited to contribute to the story with their own materials through an app, which was then edited into the series! There was also a concurrent vlog about one of the side characters.

Secondly, the story is a slightly happier one than the previous shows.

18-year-old Jim is finally done with his chemotherapy and grueling hospital visits! He’s fully recovered from his cancer and is excited to start living again. He and his friends are determined to make the summer the best one yet, with music festivals and parties galore!

The Midnight Club, Netflix (2022)

The Midnight Club is a Netflix series based on the novel by Christopher Pike.

The show revolves around a group of terminally ill teenagers residing in a hospice, who form a deep bond and create a secret society called The Midnight Club where they have a pact to communicate with each other once they’ve passed on.

Each member has a unique story and terminal diagnosis, and they meet at midnight to share their experiences, fears, dreams – and their own horror stories.

The series weaves individual character narratives with the overarching theme of friendship and coping in the face of mortality.

Amanza, KakaoTV (2020)

Another foreign language series on the list hails from South Korea and is based on the webtoon of the same name.

The streaming series titled Amanza is a drama mixed with fantasy elements!

Protagonist Park Dongmyung is a 27-year-old man with a terminal cancer diagnosis, and the series chronicles his emotional journey with his sickness without shying away from the good and bad parts of it. Along the way, Dongmyung discovers another dream world that helps him escape his reality and learn the true meaning of life.

If There Is No Tomorrow, Tencent Video (2020)


Another Asian entry, If There Is No Tomorrow, comes from China and is also known as I am Yu Huanshui.

Described as “witty and absurd”, the show centers on the titular Yu Huanshui, a man who is just trying to get by by just tolerating everything everyone says and does to him.

At his company, he’s known as one of the worst employees – that is, if he’s even known at all. Even his wife has asked for a divorce!

However, his perspective and attitude towards life changes when he is diagnosed with cancer and he chooses not to live in despair.

Happy Ending, JTBC (2012)

South Korea adds another to the list of TV shows about cancer with Happy Ending, a lengthy drama series with 24 episodes (each over an hour long!).

The man at the center of the show is Kim Doosoo, who we discover has just been informed of his terminal cancer diagnosis. He lived his whole adult life thinking he had been nothing but a good husband and a good father to his three children, but his illness opened his eyes to the truth.

In his last six months of life, Doosoo and his family work to mend wounds and heal their hearts.

Living Toward the Sun (2020)

The Chinese drama series Living Toward the Sun runs over a whopping 40 episodes in just one season and is based on the real-life story of a popular cartoonist.

In the series, viewers follow Xiang Yang, a young woman who moves to Beijing to pursue her dreams of becoming a comic book artist. Unfortunately, big city life isn’t all it’s cut out to be; Xiang Yang not only experiences setbacks in her career but also in love and when it comes to her health.

Though she originally faced her diagnosis with denial, she eventually learns to live her life to its fullest.

Amor Fati, SBS TV (2021)

The phrase “amor fati” is a pretty well-known one that means “a love of fate/destiny”. It is a fitting title for the Korean romance drama Amor Fati, as the show deals with themes of accepting the hand that you’ve been dealt in life.

At its center are two women, Yeonhee and Yoona, whose lives are intertwined because of a man.

Yeonhee has always put her family first, but this is tested when she discovers that her husband is having an affair with Yoona, who, in turn, has always put her career first.

Amor Fati details how their lives resettle after this wrench is thrown into it.

The Oath of Love (2022)

The Oath of Love is a Chinese drama that follows the story of a brilliant violinist, Lin Zhixiao, and a warm-hearted doctor, Gu Wei.

Their paths cross when Zhixiao’s father falls ill, and a deep connection forms as they navigate the complexities of life, love, and personal aspirations.

The series explores their individual struggles, ambitions, and the evolving dynamics of their relationship. Against the backdrop of their respective careers and personal challenges, Lin Zhixiao and Gu Wei’s journey unfolds, touching on themes of growth, sacrifice, and the profound impact of love on their lives.

Sick, Mexico Drama (2021)

When you hit rock bottom, sometimes the best thing to do is go back to your roots and reset. That’s exactly what 26-year-old Alice does in the 2021 drama Sick (Sjukt) when her life becomes the personification of “when it rains, it pours”.

She does have one great thing going for her: she’s just recovered from cervical cancer!

However, her boyfriend then dumps her, and she loses her hip London job, which prompts her to return to Stockholm, Sweden, to reconnect with her family and friends – both the good and the bad.

Life Sentence, The CW (2018)

Finally, we have The CW’s Life Sentence.

This series revolves around Stella Abbott, who, after living with the belief that she was terminally ill, discovers she’s cured.

Now faced with a long life ahead, Stella must adjust to the realities of a future she never expected. Stella grapples with the consequences of decisions made when she believed her time was limited and navigates the challenges of a normal life.

Alongside that, her loved ones surrounding her must also live with the not-so-great decisions they made while trying to ensure that she had the best last years.

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