I remember sitting on my couch nearly two years ago, staring at the floor, feeling helpless, as one of my closest friends told me that he has been diagnosed with a chronic condition. I remember wanting something — a pamphlet, book, counsellor or whatever — to explain to me what he was going to go through and how to best support him. Transporting myself back to that moment, it would have been incredibly helpful to have the recently launched Young and Sick Podcast.
Prominent Vancouver comedians Alicia Tobin and Kevin Lee co-host this monthly podcast in which their conversation weaves around all of the burdens and absurdities of living with chronic health conditions, the former with Hashimoto’s Thyroid Disease and the latter with atrial fibrillation. Both hosts live with conditions that could act up at any moment to cause pain, or in the worst cases, a rush to the emergency room.
As threatening as their conditions may seem — Tobin’s immune system is attacking her own thyroid gland, whilst Lee’s heart could beat out of rhythm as the result of the most mundane triggers like drinking cold beverages — throughout the first episode that the two co-hosts dip into a humourous tone from time to time whilst talking about their conditions. They do not make jokes just to keep the audience engaged; the humour is part of a larger process of unburdening themselves and resisting the notion that people with chronic conditions should always be on edge and stressed. For example, Lee emphasizes how important it is, “to enjoy our lives and to try to alleviate the anxiety, because otherwise all your doing with being so intense about everything and trying to be perfect” is trying to “erase [the] condition, which is impossible.”
The co-hosts don’t overpopulate Young and Sick with jokes, nor do their jokes diminish the seriousness of living with chronic conditions. Tobin and Lee often find humour when talking about situations that would be otherwise insufferably frustrating. Often times, these instances have much to do with the medical system and treatment rather than the conditions themselves. For example, Tobin recalls discussing her severe hair loss with a doctor whose prescription was, “You should just try Pantene!” Likewise, the first time a syringe was plunged into him to calm his heart, Lee remembers the nurse saying, “Fun fact, this was the drug that killed Michael Jackson,” and left without another word.
Tobin and Lee do an admirable job of empowering their listeners. Their honest and intimate accounts of struggling through their chronic conditions could be relieving for anyone who has to constantly deal with the health care system. As Tobin says, it’s nice to, “hear that other people have similar days.” Lee mentions near the end of the first episode that young people generally don’t think about mortality until it hits close to home. For me, it was on a grubby couch while my friend told me how his illness had disrupted his work and travel plans. I didn’t know how to support him well back then, and it will still be some time before I get the hang of it. For listeners with chronic illnesses as well as those who seek to support them, the first episode of Young and Sick Podcast ought to be an insightful 40-minute experience and I look forward to hearing more from these two thoughtful and funny hosts.