Nova Scotia

Sickboy podcast brings Jeremie Saunders's take on deadly disease

A Halifax man with cystic fibrosis has started a podcast that takes a ‘light-hearted’ look at terminal illnesses.

'Laughter or like joy is way more beneficial than sadness and tears' host says

Jeremie Saunders says Sickboy takes a comedic look at a dark subject. (CBC)

A Halifax man with cystic fibrosis has started a podcast that takes a "light-hearted" look at terminal illnesses.

Jeremie Saunders, 27, says he's been lucky in some ways, like so far avoiding a double-lung transplant. But he understands his life expectancy is much shorter than that of his friends.

"I've been living my life thinking, 'Ok, I'm dying at 40,' like that's how I'm living my life, so it's time to make life happen, you know? Don't let anything pass you by," he says.

His day-to-day life is a little different too. 

"I take about 40 pills a day — I know, it's a lot of pills, right? But to me it's second nature, it's like breathing. I just do it."

He started the podcast Sickboy to bring his positive outlook to a wider audience. He co-hosts it with friends Brian Stever, 26, and Taylor MacGillivary, 24.

"It's about three best friends, one who is chronically ill and two who are otherwise perfectly healthy. And we sit down and talk about what it's like to live with disease, what my experience is like with that disease, and what our guests' experiences are like with the diseases that they live with," Saunders says.

"But the twist is that we take a light-hearted and comedic approach."

Laughter is the best medicine

Cystic Fibrosis Canada describes the condition as "the most common fatal genetic disease affecting Canadian children and young adults."

The biggest impact from the disease is on a person's digestive system and lungs, with progressive loss of lung function and/or infection usually leading to death.

Saunders says he takes comfort in an old cliché that laughter is the best medicine.

"For me laughter has been a massive form of therapy in dealing with my cystic fibrosis. And the people that I feel most comfortable laughing around and who make me laugh the easiest are my two best friends," he says.

Stever described the podcast as a passion project.

"We were sitting here in the library just discussing some ideas and Jeremie mentioned to Taylor and I this idea for a podcast. We're kind of the type of people who once we have an idea we want to put it into action," he says. 

The group uses one of the free recording booths in Halifax Central Library and have five podcasts recorded. 

"We released a teaser episode on iTunes, which is just a ten-minute preview of our first episode, and it is up to the top ten on 'New and noteworthy' on iTunes," says MacGillivary. 

'When it's heavy, it's heavy'

MacGillivary says the podcast balances the serious and the silly. 

"When it's heavy, it's heavy, and we want to get the details out that are going to be helpful to people who are listening but also the therapy of laughter when it's appropriate."

Saunders says it's about encouraging people to talk about serious illness, to take away some of the stigma around the subject and let people know they don't need to pity someone like him. 

"Laughter or like joy is way more beneficial than sadness and tears and gloom. It's OK to feel sad, it's OK to cry. But wouldn't you rather find joy in your situation? Search out those moments of joy?"

Sickboy podcast officially launches full episodes on iTunes Sept. 19, or a little earlier if the fundraising goes well.