Cancer survivor and international award-winning creative director, Conn Bertish, is in the process of creating the Cancer Dojo, a digital platform and mobile app that will provide tools and content to empower people affected by cancer and increase their survival rate. In many medical opinions, it is way ahead of its time. To help bring this empowering platform to life, which has recently been launched on Thundafund, it will need supporters, contributors and partners.
“The app will be a space where cancer fighters can grow, learn and share skills and tools to boost their immune systems. It will also enable them to keep each other company and send each other help. Furthermore, creatives from all around the world will get to work alongside doctors and oncologists to alter the way in which we deal with the disease,” says Bertish.
In 2006, Bertish was handed the toughest brief he had ever seen. He was diagnosed with a severe and extremely rare form of brain cancer. So rare in fact, that the data available for the behaviour (and reaction to standard treatments) of the cancer was depressingly hard to find.
While traditional cancer treatments like surgery, chemotherapy and radiation were prescribed, Bertish felt there was something missing. It was as if the most important part of the solution was left out of the brief…
Where was he in the mix? Surely he could do more than just ‘be strong’. He solved challenges for a living, so couldn’t he play a role here? He could try and understand the problem and then creatively become part of the solution – after all, the challenge was happening in his body.
The creative director knew how to work with tough briefs. He immediately set in motion the biggest creative project of his life. He began the process of using his imagination to immerse himself in his bout with cancer. He went straight to the first things he always relied on – his pen, paper and playful, problem solving attitude. He began toying with cancer, studying the ill people around him, creating visual representations of what he was going through and documenting his experiences through conceptual thinking and storytelling.
He used his imagination to create a drawn series of pen-on-paper metaphors that helped him to visualise his tumour and treatments with intent. Bertish was able to imagine the effects that different treatments would have on the tumour cells. He was also able to concentrate energy where his body needed it most, augmenting the effects of his chemotherapy, radiation and multiple surgeries by linking his mind to his body in a playful, targeted way. This also enabled him to prepare different organs, glands and muscles to combat the many negative side-effects of his debilitating treatments. He then took the thinking into everyday life and the world around him. It became a game, a daily routine. He had found a playful, fear-debunking way to interact with, see and imagine himself beating his cancer.
All of a sudden, he had a role in his own survival
Creative thinking helped Bertish link his mind to his body in a way that augmented his treatments, resilience and immune system, ultimately increasing his chances of survival. As somebody whose life was built around creativity and the power of conceptual thought, Bertish was used to working with metaphors. He knew the value in bringing seemingly insurmountable problems into context. It was in his nature to deal with the usually invisible.
Since beating Cancer in 2013, Bertish has been urged by doctors, oncologists, neurologists and professors of science to share this way of thinking and use his experience as a gateway for others to enter the world of this playful visual approach (dubbed Dojo Thinking). The result is The Cancer Dojo.
Former head of Western Cape Government’s Department of Health, Dr Tom Sutcliffe, says, “At last a brilliant app that helps a lay person to understand and to thoroughly engage with his or her cancer on a creative, self-healing path.” Dr Claudius van Wyk, a member of the Scientific and Medical Network (UK), concurs, “Cancer Dojo is a worthy endeavour to give practical effect of the application of new Psychoneuroimmunology insights to those affected by this challenging condition, of whom Conn Bertish is a noteworthy exemplar.” Oncologist Dr Garth Davids adds, “A vital step in any cancer journey is to be empowered to face its many challenges. Conn’s journey inspires and empowers.”
“The Cancer Dojo will help people unlock the powerful effects of Dojo Thinking – enabling them to alter the way they deal with their disease and play an active role in their recovery,” concludes Bertish.
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