Cancer Dojo Founder Conn Bertish Explains Why He Is So Remarkably Hard To Kill

In the midst of the 4th Industrial Revolution, Heavy Chef now takes a lens to the single most powerful defining characteristic of success, grit, and we invite two individuals who exemplify the very essence of the word - internationally renowned ice swimmer, Ryan Stramrood, and Conn Bertish - to speak at a Heavy Chef event on the 20th November, at Workshop17 in Cape Town.


Conn Bertish is our second speaker next week, and he is remarkably hard to kill.

Conn is one of the country’s top creative thinkers, having worked with some of the leading creative agencies in Africa. In 2006, Conn was diagnosed with a form of adult malignant brain cancer, leaving him at the mercy of the world's most feared disease. Using a very creative approach - and a truckload of grit - Conn finally beat cancer in 2013 - and then started building a tool, to help others do the same.

Fred Roed: Grit is massively important to determining success in this new tech rich future, and is something you clearly have in spades - as demonstrated by your career and your experiences. What do you think gave you this characteristic? Is it born, or can it be taught?

Conn: My brothers and I have grit in our blood, but on top of that we were schooled by a master. My father Keith Bertish was a character of legend. One of the first pioneering surfers, sailors and divergent creative thinkers in South Africa – he taught me to follow my gut, believe in the power of my creativity, and realise that if I wanted to make a positive difference in the world it would demand fortitude, honesty and full commitment - regardless of the fear, pain and challenges. His memory still fuels my brothers and I, to overcome and charge forth: To earn our right to live on this overloaded planet.

Conn, you are recognised as one of SAs most creative individuals - what role does creativity have in tackling the challenges we face in life and business?

Creativity is everything.

It is the ultimate human freedom – it is our ability and right to think and do, differently.

Creativity is our most valuable evolutionary asset and the one core talent that we possess as a species that will help us positively navigate the many challenges of this rapidly scaling world of technology, artificial intelligence - and industrial and social revolution.

Creativity thrives on these kind of challenges.

And not only that - used correctly, creativity can boost our immune function, brain health and combat the negative physical and psychological effects of stress and depression.

It is an imperative and much needed skill that needs to be taught, nurtured and grown - across all industries and challenges.

I could not agree more. Conn, tell us about your new app, soon to be launched - how did it come about, and what can we expect from it?

When I was diagnosed with a rare form of adult brain cancer, I decided to dive into my fear and play with my cancer like I would a blank page. I used a range of creative techniques to help engage and augment my different treatments in my own way, using insights from big wave surfing, creative strategy and conceptual art - to build my resilience, augment the efficacy of my treatments and become harder to kill.

When I survived cancer in 2013, I was urged by doctors and professors of Oncology to share my thinking. Two years later I resigned from my job to work on Cancer Dojo, a 100% complimentary mobile support tool designed to shift a patient’s mindset from helplessness to actively engage in their healing – to build resilience and positively affect their immune systems - together with their chosen treatments.

Cancer Dojo’s mission is the increase the global cancer survival rate and decrease its burden of cost. It will launch on App Stores at the end on this month.

Awesome. We will watch closely and the Heavy Chef community will certainly support you sir. Who do you admire, who is your role model - in terms of grit?

My father, my brothers - and the rag-tag clan of early Hawaiian big wave surfers like Pat Curren, Mickey Munoz and Greg Noll. Crazy, fearless pioneers who built their own surfboards to attempt waves yet unridden by humans. They were cheeky, brave and resourceful – the ultimate creatives – building their own tool to overcome the seemingly impossible.

Thank you Conn, for the inspiration and giving so many the permission to believe. We can’t wait to see you on stage next week. Readers: there are still tickets left to see this amazing human on stage talking about his journey. Book yours quickly before it’s sold out.

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