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23 February 2016

Kicking cancer with tech

Cancer survivor Conn Bertish is revolutionising dealing with this disease, with the help of the latest technology and Vodacom.

When faced with brain cancer, advertising creative director Conn Bertish adopted a novel approach to deal with his treatment. And now he's ready to spread the word. 

Its proper name is psychoneuroimmunology, the idea that our psychological processes can influence our immune system, but what it means is that he found a creative way to use visualisations, drawing, writing and sound to deal with the rigours his body was facing. 

He calls it his Dojo Thinking and he’s bringing it to the world with a mobile-driven application, with the help of a Vodacom Change The World grant.

The purpose of Cancer Dojo is to change the way the world views cancer and assist people to play a role in their own healing, boost their own immune systems and stand a better chance of a positive outcome.

International inspiration

Conn has just returned from Milan where he opened the IF! Italians Festival with a talk on Dojo Thinking. 'I opened with my talk titled "Happy People Are Harder to Kill" which documents the Cancer Dojo way of approaching disease. I use humour, irreverence and storytelling, backed up with some powerful neuroscience, medical studies and a few breakdance moves thrown in to boot,' he says.

'Cancer Dojo and my talk remained one of the top influencers of the event on Twitter for the duration of the event and I managed to connect with the right people. It still amazes me that when you just put yourself out there, commit to an idea you believe in, the right people emerge and the idea gets bigger, better and boosted, by collaboration,' he adds.

He says that the trip was whirlwind three-day tour of Italian design with a half-day visit to the European Institute of Oncology's innovative Cancer Centre in Via Ripamonti, Milan. Conn says: 'It's a pretty amazing facility, I loved their use of plants, greenery and open space to enhance healing. With over 600 cancer practitioners under one roof, I got some super tips on foods, community building, med tech and funding techniques.'

Of his trip, Conn says: 'It was a privilege to be there, open the festival and experience the passion and excitement around the intersection of creativity, technology and humans in our growing digitally enabled world. This is the best time in human history to be a designer and social entrepreneur. Yes, we have many problems to solve, but we also have many more ways to solve them.'

He’s back in South Africa now optimising Cancer Dojo after learning a lot about social enterprise on an international level.

'Our Vodacom Change The World Grant is powering us forward to build the tools, information, education and visual stimulus that will empower people facing cancer to become collaborators in their own healing story.

'We have recently finished our first crowd-funding and awareness campaign which generated over R150 000. We are ploughing this into a new website build, mobile application user experience and wire-framing design. We’ve also partnered with 17 creative agencies around the world to collaborate with us to generate a large bank of cancer-fighting content (visual, motion picture and sound) that we’ll be optimising and sharing over the next few months online.'

For more information on Cancer Dojo, follow it @cancerdojo, go to or on Facebook at CancerDojo.

Watch a video about Conn’s journey here » 

Vodacom Change The World 

If you feel you have what it takes to change the world, then now is the time to apply to be one of the 2016/2017 volunteers. 

You will need to approach an NPO and gain its support and agreement on your role, goals and proposed monthly salary, then apply online at

Applications close on 20 March 2016.