Let’s talk: Sickboy Podcast mixes humour, seriousness, chronic illnesses

WATCH ABOVE: A Nova Scotia man with cystic fibrosis knows his time is more limited than most. Despite that, he says there’s a humourous side to chronic illness — you just have to find it. Julia Wong has the story.

HALIFAX – Jeremie Saunders is dying, but he and his friends aren’t afraid to talk about it, or laugh about it for that matter.

Saunders, 27, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis as a baby. The chronic lung condition has no cure and often there is a shortened life expectancy.

“I have had some ups and downs in terms of my overall health, like some pretty serious hospital admissions,” he said.

Saunders and his two childhood friends, Taylor MacGillivary and Brian Stever, are the brainchilds behind Sickboy Podcast. The Internet radio show features the three men interviewing people living with chronic illnesses, such as brain cancer, bipolar disorder and diabetes.

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The men, who are big podcast fans, have recorded five episodes and are speaking with people from around the world.

“I want to get the conversation going so that people who are sick can talk about being sick and people who aren’t sick can talk to people who are living with disease or living with illness,” Saunders said.

“We can just break down those walls of weirdness, stigma and awkwardness that comes with that territory.”

Saunders said the motivation for the podcast is to help people become more comfortable talking about the subject matter.

“If I was to come to you or anyone else and discuss where I’m at and how I’m dealing with the situation, the last thing I want is for the other person I’m talking to to feel any kind of awkwardness or hesitation in what they can and cannot say,” he said.

“Everyone’s had that moment where you find out someone you know is sick,” said MacGillivary. “All of a sudden, you feel like you can’t relate to that person anymore. It’s about helping people who feel like that not feel like that so they can be comfortable to open up that conversation.”

When Saunders, MacGillivary and Stever come together to record, their zest for life is obvious and it’s clear they believe humour is the best way to cope with life with a chronic illness.

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“Laughter is a form of therapy,” said Stever. “When you’re able to laugh about things, you’re able to realize how trivial some of your worries can be.”

However, the men said the podcasts also take a serious tone.

“We go into [one interviewee talking about] attempting suicide. We’re all shaking listening to the conversation,” said MacGillivary.

Stever said the interviews have pushed him to live a fuller life.

“The number one thing I’ve taken away from this is that these people have inspired me to live each day as if it were my last,” he said.

“I know it’s cliche but they’ve been forced to face their own mortality. When you make a decision like that, it allows you to really focus on living each day as if it’s your last.”

Saunders agrees with Stever, adding that he has embraced his “statistically shortened life expectancy”.

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“I used that to drive myself to do the things I might not do if I wasn’t in that situation,” he said with a smile.

The podcasts officially launch September 19.

The men currently record their podcasts at the Halifax Central Library, but they said it can often be difficult to schedule a recording session since the studio is open to the public. They kicked off a fundraising campaign Friday to raise $10,000 to purchase their own recording equipment.

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