What You Should Know About the Black Cancer Podcast
Jodi-Ann Burey, creator and host of the Black Cancer Podcast, shares her personal cancer story and the importance of creating meaningful connections by normalizing talking about health, cancer, and grief.
Our personal health can be tough to discuss. Cancer, even tougher. That’s the importance of Black Cancer. Black Cancer was created to offer space to share the real life stories about how everyday people of color navigate the cancer journey and who they become as a result. Now in its third season, each episode includes a new guest whose stories help us to face our experiences openly and together.
Whether you or someone you love has been impacted by cancer, you’re not alone. I’m Jodi-Ann Burey, the creator and host of Black Cancer, here to tell you what you should know about the podcast.
Why I created the Black Cancer podcast.
My spinal tumor was finally found after three years of doctors visits trying to learn what was causing me so much pain. Through that time, I realized I didn’t really have anyone to talk with me about it. And “with me” is important here. I didn’t want to be around people who felt bad for me. I wanted someone who could laugh comfortably about my tumor humor. I wanted people to help me reflect on the many many fears and questions I had. I couldn’t find anyone. So I turned to podcasts. I am an avid podcast listener. I listen to podcasts on politics, pop culture commentary, and especially love interviews with my favorite writers and thought leaders. As it turns out, there aren’t many podcasts that talk openly about cancer in a way that doesn’t feel like you’re listening to the audio version of WebMD. I found one podcast, based out of the United Kingdom, that was a great solace to me until its lack of racial diversity — and thus how that intersects with my journey, became too distracting and unhelpful. I stopped listening.
There aren’t many podcasts that talk openly about cancer in a way that doesn’t feel like you’re listening to the audio version of WebMD.
Several months after my surgery, I found myself in more conversations with other Black people and other people of color in my life about their experiences. In sharing my story, I noticed how it made me feel less alone and more supported. I understand my feelings and choices better. At the same time, I believe talking about my journey openly offered a sense of safety for others to talk about their experiences as well. I knew it was important to share these conversations with more people than just us — for their healing and my own.
“We’re always saying, ‘I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine.’ But then I feel that you’re not opening the doors for others to really tell you how they feel. Like if you’re always telling me you’re feeling good, then I don’t want to tell you all the bad things that I’m dealing with.” — Angelica Garcia, “Nobody But Me” Season 2
The significance of the podcast’s title “Black Cancer.”
“As a Black woman I definitely need protecting. We’re not listened to, we’re not heard. We do need protecting.” — Lauren Tarpley, “I’m Going to Tell Him Everything” Season 3
I titled the podcast “Black Cancer” because I wanted to make sure that under no uncertain terms people knew what the podcast is about and who the podcast is for. Black Cancer makes that very clear. Black Cancer is one of the few professional projects that I am involved in that does not center the white gaze. It offers a freedom to explore our own experiences with a level of authority that cannot be captured with a question I often get in white dominant spaces: “What was it like being Black and having cancer?” It is often such an offensive question because it flattens — and in many cases denies, my own humanity. So for me, Black Cancer centers us, Black people and other people of color, as a safe space to get into the nuances of our own experiences and our own story through our own lens.
“We’re celebrating bodies that have been resilient. We’re celebrating what our bodies look like after this whole process and during this whole process. How can we normalize it?” — Sharon Eldridge, “I’m Not Afraid of Losing Something Now” Season 1
Why someone living with or alongside someone with a cancer diagnosis should listen to this podcast.
“Something caregivers go through alone is isolation. Aloneness. Isolation. Sometimes you feel like you’re a burden to other people because the weight of caregiving can be so difficult. You don’t want to feel like you are spreading your problems to other people. You don’t want to look like a complainer.” — Kandis Draw, “You Have To Do It Afraid” Season 3
When one person receives a cancer diagnosis, that becomes the so-called “cancer journey” for all the people in their lives. My diagnosis started to change the behavior of people around me in ways that affirmed and supported me, as well as ways that hurt and traumatized me in my experience. As time has passed, I am more aware and have greater clarity of the hurt, trauma, joy and life lessons others who’ve stayed close to me have experienced. I don’t think their stories get told enough — those who were absolutely impacted by cancer, even though they themselves weren’t diagnosed.
Guests on the podcast who are loved ones never tell a singular story. They have their own center, their own lives, dreams, desires, aggravations and worries. I see Black Cancer as a place that sees them fully for who they are — including and beyond their relationship to the person in their life who had cancer.
I don’t think their stories get told enough — those who were absolutely impacted by cancer, even though they themselves weren’t diagnosed.
What I’ve learned from my approach to the COVID-19 pandemic is that there’s an incredible opportunity to learn from trauma, if and when you’re ready to see what it can offer. I don’t think I realized how much I learned coping from my experience, until it was tested by the stressors and fears of this unprecedented pandemic. Through the podcast, what I hope to accomplish is sharing those life lessons — the “trauma wisdom” as I like to call it, so that others can use what we’ve been through to support themselves, their loved ones, and to become a more thoughtful and empathetic human.
How Black Cancer has impacted my life.
Creating Black Cancer has been wildly therapeutic for me, personally. There were so many instances in my journey that were reflected in the stories that guests on the podcast shared — from incredibly happy and proud moments to moments of hopelessness and an untethering. I found so much solace in knowing that I wasn’t alone. More than that, I learned new perspectives about my own journey through the language used by my guests to talk about their own.
What I hope I’m doing with Black Cancer is to normalize talking about health, cancer and grief in a way that makes it possible for us to no longer miss opportunities to connect with each other.
I still think back to my conversation with Tamika Felder, who helped me understand that at one point in my journey, I was actually struggling to “see myself in the future.” I literally stopped being able to envision my life beyond a particular day or week. Until our conversation, I really didn’t have a sense that this was what was going on with me. I also often find myself thinking about my conversation with Janice Omadeke, who is someone I know personally. What I learned in our conversation is how differently grief and trauma can look on people. And how at times, the ways we cope with or cover the stronger emotions of our experiences can cause us to miss each other and related opportunities to create community.
“You’re scared to live fully, because you’re waiting for the bottom to fall out again. And that’s no way to live. And so for me, I had to find a way to not only survive, but thrive in my survivorship.” — Tamika Felder, “I’m About that Life” Season 3
When Janice and I first met each other, we were both in the thick of our own recoveries working through grief and trauma, and we didn’t even know it.
It feels similar to my discussion with Juliette Austin in season one, who was friends with me for about a year before she disclosed that she had survived thyroid cancer. I often wonder what that year would have been like if I was able to have that kinship with Juliette. What I hope I’m doing with Black Cancer is to normalize talking about health, cancer and grief in a way that makes it possible for us to no longer miss opportunities to connect with each other.
“I wish somebody had reminded me or told me or shown me or expressed to me in some way that I am far stronger than I believe myself to be. What we think is our capacity is actually not always our capacity, there’s more. There’s a depth in us as humans.” — Juliette Austin, “Trained Self-Preservation Mode” Season 1
Advice for listeners experiencing the impact of cancer in their lives.
Find someone to talk to about cancer. If the people around you are tired of hearing you talk about cancer, you can find plenty of other people who can meet you exactly where you are. There is not one single person I’ve talked to on the podcast who navigated their experience alone. Nobody. This doesn’t mean that you need to ditch all the friends you have who can’t support you in the ways you need them to, though sometimes this happens by choice or circumstance. It means that you need space to make sense of what happened to you and that this space can be held by others. I hope Black Cancer can serve as a model for what these conversations can look like.
You can listen to any of the episodes from the first three seasons of Black Cancer on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify.