Conn and the Cancer Dojo

My Story – short, sweet and a little crazy.

I resigned from my job as the executive creative director of Quirk Cape Town – one of the biggest digital ad agencies in Africa, on April fools day last year, to share an idea that helped saved my life.

I called it Cancer Dojo.


I knew if I could make it real and sustainable it could save a lot more lives than just mine; it could literally change the way humans faced and dealt with disease. It was mad, playful, irreverent and kind of punk, but it made sense, in the simplest of ways, to me. Throughout my years of living with cancer I had used my creative skills of writing, drawing, conceptualizing to bring my cancer to life visibly in sketches, drawings, stories and words that connected literally to what was going on invisibly inside my body.

I decided to put my thinking behind my healing, tapped into the science of Psychoneuroimmunology (the science of how what’s going on in your mind, affects how your body and immune system behaves.) And the more I did it, the stronger I felt.

Participating in your own healing has great benefits.

By using some of the sketches below I was able to very simply actively participate in my own healing, shift my thinking from helplessness to empowered and make myself more resilient, happier, healthier and I like to say, harder to kill.

Many people have asked how did I just start playing with something as scary as cancer? They’re intrigued as to when was the first moment I decided to embrace the fear of it all and immerse myself into it.

I’ve worked out three main answers for this, which I’ve infused into all the Cancer Dojo thinking:

1. Laugh at it.

For the last 20 years I’ve been passionately solving problems with creativity in the advertising industry. Facing the fear of late briefs and blank pages waiting for an idea.

And I’ve learned to not take it too seriously, to relax, laugh at the problem, twist it, flip it; take the mickey out of it. Because the more fun you have screwing around with a tricky problem, the more innovative your solution will be.

2. Stay Calm.

I’ve been surfing big waves for over 25 years and have learned to calm myself when facing 20 foot lumps of ocean and being tumbled around underwater for what seems like eternity.  I’ve learned when to relax and let the ocean roll you around like a ragdoll, and then when to move, to swim through the turbulence and catch your breath. It’s a fine line between meditation and action, but it always demands calmness in the face of the challenge.

3. Make it yours.

Creativity is unique, and that’s what makes it so powerful. Just scribbling a little stickman onto a page in your own way, makes it a mindful self-expression and this is fantastically healthy, to be able to express yourself meaningfully about an important feeling or concern. To dive into that fear, in your own way, is key to understanding it. Creativity is the tool that can make scary, fun.

CancerDojo_Imagine Google Hot Air Balloon copy 3

The awarded Cancer Dojo brand and App under construction:

Our aim is simple: To empower people facing cancer (and their supporter) with the creative, tech and visual stimulus they need to become active participants in their own healing. Shifting mindsets from negativity to active positive engagement in their own cancer experience. We believe having cancer is a great opportunity to change your life for the better!

We are in our MVP / Beta stage with the Cancer Dojo app and are still looking for further funding and partners to take it forward. We are also working with the support of GoogleSA to rank our positive content higher up the Google Search rankings – enabling people facing cancer to literally get a dose of optimistic thinking from the first touch point.

Here’s to increasing the cancer survival rate, one playful mind at time.

To find out more or get involved go to