There aren’t very many feel-good comedies about cancer, but if you gloss over the illness and disability part a bit as in 50/50 you come pretty close. Adam is diagnosed with a rare type of spinal cancer (the more syllables it has, the worse it is) and is promptly prescribed a round of chemotherapy and some new elderly friends with medical marijuana. (Since Adam doesn’t seem to worry about either bankruptcy from medical bills or arrest from medical marijuana, we can only surmise that 50/50 is set in Canada.) Adam considers his mother a Smother (when she’s not busy taking care of his befuddled dad) so turns to his buddies to help him through the crisis. His best friend Kyle makes jokes about his situation and uses it to attract women, but is a true and loyal friend when Adam’s girlfriend can’t handle the stresses of the low-level caregiving (dropping off and picking up Adam from chemo) she’s asked to perform. Reality only intrudes into Rachel’s world occasionally, when Adam pukes in the toilet, but when he finally gets angry enough at her to break up, she wails that he hasn’t considered how hard it is on her.
Though he doesn’t take Rachel back, it suddenly dawns on Adam just how hard it is on his mother taking care of his Dad. He further comes to the realization that she does so out of love, and not letting her take part in his caregiving is effectively shutting her out of her one son’s life (or death, as it may be). When chemo fails, Adam calls on her for support for a dangerous, last-chance surgery. She shows up at the hospital with her husband in tow. Though Adam’s dad doesn’t understand what’s happening or even who Adam is, he still has enough of the long-term memory synapses to know he loves Adam; they hug and both get weepy.
The surgery was a success, though the patient lost part of his pelvis, hip, and the myelin sheath of the nerve in one leg. Adam’s recovery from that must have been painful, expensive, and long, the movie skips ahead to when he’s “walking up a storm”, with better hair, better girlfriend, and better relationships with his mother and best friend.