By Darren Gilbert
And he won, beating cancer in 2013. However, it didn’t feel right to simply return to normal life. Yes, he had overcome cancer. But what about the cancer sufferers he’d left behind? “I had watched how other people handled cancer while I was in hospital and I saw that they were lost,” says Bertish. Of course, he understood why. Radiation and chemotherapy, particularly together, are so invasive to your body. It sucks the energy out of you, he says, making it hard to do anything.
It leaves you helpless. Vulnerable. Depressed. “Just the doctor saying you have cancer sees your whole immune system drop. Just from the word,” says Bertish. This comes from believing there is nothing you can do. That you have no control. However, if you could change this mindset, you could stand a better chance at fighting cancer. If you could give people a role in their cancer, you could provide them with much-needed hope.
He explains: “After my chemo and radiation, I was relegated to my mother’s house because my children were young and bringing home germs and my white blood cell count was flat.” Bertish’s taste buds had also been burnt off from the radiation. He couldn’t eat without feeling nauseous. In short, he had never felt worse in his life. And so, as a distraction, he started putting up random signs around Cape Town and included his old cellphone number.
“I didn’t know why I was doing it then but I was creating this secret club of people who were supporting me,” says Bertish. Every day, without fail, he would receive a few crazy calls from the 100-odd signs he had put up across the city. However, instead of it being an irritation, it provided something else – support. And little did he know then, but this experiment had helped him to tap into the power of community.
“There are a lot of studies around how community supporting you makes you stronger,” says Bertish. “And what I had created was a community to make me feel good.” He also realised soon after that it was the key to help fellow cancer sufferers. And so, with this thinking to back him up, Bertish set about creating Cancer Dojo
An app that empowers people facing cancer by giving them visual tools to engage with their illness, Cancer Dojo’s
express goal is to debunk the fear of cancer. “Essentially, I am building a community so that you are not fighting cancer by yourself,” says Bertish.
So imagine you are having chemo. Chemo is going into your arm. At the same time, you are logged into Cancer Dojo and you are playing a chemo game with 27 000 other people who are having chemo at the exact same time as you. As silly as it may sound, it’s a life-changing event. As soon as people start playing a role in fighting their cancer, they are no longer helpless. Instead, they feel empowered. They have a role in their own survival.
“When you are facing cancer, you are out of control,” explains Bertish. “With Cancer Dojo
, I can give people something to have control over.” With Cancer Dojo
, you can tap into a community and watch videos and talks on cancer. If you have thyroid cancer, for example, you can click on a link and all these resources will come up that are related to the type of cancer you have. If you want to support someone, you can gift them a woolen beanie, a blanket, or some cancer fighting food. “This is not just about words,” says Bertish. “It’s real-world support.”
While statistics around cancer diagnosis are overwhelming, with Cancer Dojo
, you’ll have a community who will help you through. It will no longer be known as ‘The big C’. Instead, you’ll be able to tackle it like you would any other illness. And if you’re brave, maybe even call it ‘The little c’ instead.
For more information on Cancer Dojo, visit www.cancerdojo.org. To pledge your support, visit their Thundafund page here. Alternatively, connect with Cancer Dojo on Facebook or on Twitter.*Cancer Research UK.