CBC’s inspiring Sickboy celebrates laughing in the face of deadly disease

“If all of us are affected by illness in some way, then why can’t we just talk about it?” That’s the question put forth by Jeremie Saunders, who aims to get people doing just that in “Sickboy.”

Airing as part of CBC Docs POV—the rebranding of Firsthand—Dream Street Pictures’ “Sickboy” follows 29-year-old Jeremie (he’s in the centre of the picture above) as he lives life on borrowed time. Diagnosed with cystic fibrosis as a baby and told he wouldn’t live past 25, Jeremie literally laughs in the face of disease and seeks to discuss it with friends, family and the world via the Sickboy podcast that aims to alter the way people view serious illnesses like cancer, depression, PTSD and epilepsy.

Written and directed by Andrew MacCormack, “Sickboy” begins on Jeremie’s 29th birthday, as he reflects on the fact that—according to what doctors told his parents when he was a baby—he should already be dead. But, rather than let the fact cystic fibrosis—mucous buildup in the lungs causing scarring in the organs that will eventually kill him—the Halifax native prefers to celebrate every day he has with optimism, discussion and, most importantly to him, laughter. See, Jeremie believes laughing at cystic fibrosis keeps it at bay and takes away its power over him.

Then it’s off to meet Jeremie’s two friends, Brian Stever and Taylor MacGillivray, in the studio recording Sickboy podcast, where the trio invite others on to talk about being diagnosed and living with disease or sickness. But, as Taylor points out, the point of the podcast isn’t to speak to the illness one has, but the individual experience with the illness. For podcast guest Carole, that means describing waking up from an epilleptic seizure half out of an elevator with the door bumping up against her. For Jeremie, that means fully embracing YOLO—you only live once—to the max.

It’s not all fun and laughs, however. MacCormack captures serious, sobering moments too: Jeremie opens what looks like bags of groceries to reveal the dozens of bottles of medication he takes to keep cystic fibrosis at bay, the hacking coughing sequences are heartwrenching, and the first frank talk about CF with his wife, Bryde. Some of the most touching sequences are between Brian and his mother, who open up about her cancer diagnosis, and how the deaths of two friends of the podcast shatter the trio.

“Sickboy” is educational, entertaining and, most importantly, inspiring to watch; I’ve already subscribed to the podcast and look forward to the conversations Jeremie, Brian, Taylor and their guests have.

“Sickboy” airs as part of CBC Docs POV this Sunday at 9 p.m. on CBC. Listen to the Sickboy podcast.