Jeremie Saunders is an actor and adventurer who has cystic fibrosis, and he’s bringing his light-hearted love of life to a series of unusual health podcasts.
In them, Saunders and two friends interview people with different illnesses in order to shed light on the daily realities of living with a particular chronic illness.
The podcasts are not focused on the medical facts of disease. Instead, they illuminate the realities of life with an illness. The details are sometimes horrifying and occasionally hilarious.
Saunders, 27, said he and his friends, Taylor MacGillivary and Brian Stever, want their podcasts to break down barriers caused by ignorance and fear.
“When awkwardness and stigma attach to an illness, it has an impact on the sufferer; it carries a lot of weight,” said Saunders, who is a yoga instructor as well as an award-winning actor.
“The last thing I want to feel is that my illness defines me. I’m not cystic fibrosis.”
Saunders was born with cystic fibrosis, an incurable lung condition, and lives with both the disease and the expectation of a shortened lifespan.
He was Sickboy’s first subject. In his interview with MacGillivary and Stever, they discuss the most intimate details of Saunders’ life with riotous humour.
But the information divulged is serious. Saunders reveals his early rebellion against his illness, his rejection of his medication and his later determination to make the most of every day.
He said the comedic tone is central to the interview about his life, as laughter is important to him and part of the dynamic among himself, MacGillivary and Stever.
“Laughter is huge therapy for me so it naturally comes out in the podcast.”
However, not every episode will be bursting with laughs. One will feature a woman with a rare form of glaucoma who is at risk of going completely blind.
Saunders said people are drawn to the novelty of the Sickboy podcasts.
“Other podcasts have people talking about their experiences with a particular disease, but this idea opens it up to any or all diseases.”
The personal approach also seems to speak to people.
They quickly reached the $10,000 target they set for their Kickstarter campaign. They are continuing to fundraise and seek sponsors in the hopes of purchasing a mobile recording studio in which to record interviews across the continent.
So far, they have used the facilities at the Halifax Central Library to record their interviews.
Saunders got the idea for Sickboy while listening to podcaster and director Kevin Smith.
“Kevin was talking about podcasting and the entire idea for Sickboy just spawned in my brain,” Saunders said.
“Over the next few weeks, I couldn’t shake it. The next thing, we’d created it. It started as a passion project we thought our family and friends might enjoy, but we’ve had interest from around the world.”
The three are working long hours and sinking their free time into Sickboy.
“We want to get the conversation going,” Saunders said.
“We can break down those walls of weirdness, stigma and awkwardness that come with this territory.”
They have also talked about starting their own podcast network where they could produce other podcasts.
“We feel Sickboy podcasts are comedic, educational and inspirational; if we can find people sitting on ideas that meet these ideals, it would be awesome to link up,” Saunders said.
The Sickboy podcasts officially launch Saturday. The Kickstarter campaign ends Oct. 6