Rob Opie on Wellness. Cracking the Cancer Code: just like Everest, cancer can be conquered

18 July 2024, Thursday

They don’t always make the headlines, and among the great champions are not just those who have conquered Everest or won Olympic gold, but also the many who have beaten cancer. It takes guts,

perseverance and determination to face a life-threatening disease head on. Most of all, it takes a new ‘collaborative’ approach to conquering disease that is offering hope where there was little before. Here, human brand specialist Rob Opie outlines the collaborative and collective wisdom of champions – what they do and don’t do to face major obstacles. He argues that cancer can be conquered by opening up to a ‘rational alternative’ to conventional medical wisdom. MS

 By Robert Opie*


When US President Richard Nixon signed the National Cancer Act into force in 1971, most Americans – and the rest of the world – believed  that if  America  could put a man on the moon, the war against cancer would soon be over.

More than 40 years on and rogue cancer cells continue to cause death, destroy lives and devastate more families than ever before. Every day in the US alone, more than 1500 people succumb to the disease. In South Africa that number is estimated to be 150. Despite advances of modern medicine in cancer treatments and early detection programmes, there still exists a perceived lack of progress.

Recent talk has revolved around cancer “dream teams” in the US who are collaborating to find the cure. However, the cold reality, as reported by Time magazine in April 2013, is that “the probability of developing some type of cancer over one’s  lifetime is for men, one in two, and for women, one in three”.

Cancer has formed an integral part of my more than a decade-long interactive study of the great champions of life, which culminated in the book, The Game Plan, in 2013.

From the outset in 1999, when one of my golfing partners – the legendary West Indian cricketer Malcolm Marshall, succumbed to cancer, I began a mission to find answers to the unanswered questions: what triggers cancer, what causes cancer? And to find a way to help those who have to face the devastating words: “You’ve got cancer.”

Years later, my passion intensified when one of my closet friends was diagnosed with motor neuron disease, and was close to throwing in life’s towel. This ignited a further desire to work interactively with the great champions to find out how they conquer. The result was pure power, combining the collaborative and collective wisdom of these greats.

And it was in the cancer wards of Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital that I met those who I regard as the greatest champions of all: the cancer champions. From the modelling of methodologies of what the great champions know, do and don’t do, I’ve become convinced that cancer can be conquered with a “rational alternative” – the adoption of a new, collaborative approach to “dis-ease”.

Whilst most people lament Lance Armstrong’s lies and cheating, he remains a beacon of hope for cancer sufferers. Armstrong conquered cancer at age 25, with what he described as his “gift” to fellow cancer patients – a four-legged model of “motivation, knowledge, support and hope”. The model he shared went mostly unnoticed; it was his sharing of esoteric knowledge that prompted further interactive study into what other great champions were doing to conquer, whether it be on the slopes of Everest, or in the cancer wards of Albert Luthuli.

Powerful commonalities have been revealed, overlaying Armstrong’s model with that of many other great champions to reveal a model of immense power – in a nut shell, a four-legged model derived from the collective wisdom of the great champions. It comprises “resolve, knowledge, support and game plan”.

Cracking the cancer code requires a paradigm shift in thinking aligning and balancing of all four of these legs of the champion’s table of life and health, and sometimes a radical shift in tactics. Let’s take a look at each of the legs:


It’s a powerful word, more powerful than Armstrong’s motivation, which implies an element of being coaxed to do something one does not really wish to do. Resolve is about “inspired action to do”.  Conquering cancer is a choice. No one conquers cancer without resolve. Cancer champions choose to conquer. They never give up. Without a strong resolve leg, any attempt to conquer cancer will be a futile exercise.

In Armstrong’s words: “Without cancer, I never would have won a single Tour de France. Cancer taught me a plan for more purposeful living, and that in turn taught me how to train and to win more purposefully. It taught me that pain has a reason and that sometimes the experience of losing things – whether health or a car or an old sense of self – has its own value in the scheme of life. Pain and loss are great enhancers.”              


It’s the vital second leg of the table, though knowledge is mere potential power. It only becomes power with the words, “I get it”, when the right strategies and tactics are put in place to conquer.

Modern medicine has done genius work with symptomatic treatment programmes and early detection of cancer, but little, to no progress has been made on cause. Most oncologists openly admit they do not know what causes cancer. This is primarily because their search has been restricted to the physical and chemical realms of “dis-ease” – the primary reason they have failed to “crack the cancer code”.

Modern medicine can knock out a cancerous tumour, but in reality, chemotherapy and radiation are symptomatic treatments. They do not address the cause. It’s important to note that cancer champions who conquer through such treatments, also at the same time go through periods of self introspection. They make radical tactical shifts in their outlook to life – their life design. They make life-design changes consciously or sub-consciously, because cancer has a strategy – sending out a universal message to restore balance in life. This involves acceptance that the cure or answer to cancer does not lie in the physical or the chemical realms of dis-ease alone, but also in the emotional realm.

It’s crucial to understand that emotional balance fuels wellness and imbalance fuels illness. Cell generation returns to normal faster  when the body, mind and spirit are brought back into balance.

Cracking the cancer code is about restoring emotional balance, in particular resolving to get rid of long-term resentment, a powerful, destructive, and unbalancing emotion.


This is the third important leg of the champion’s table. Armstrong had plenty of it, but many people don’t. Lack of support makes conquering cancer even more frightening and near impossible. Human greatness demands the power of the human collective, a collaboration of power.

The great champions of Everest never do it alone. It’s the same with cancer champions. They leverage the power of the human collective, comprising faith, family, friends, doctors and carefully selected opinion mentors. It’s a “sherpa-like approach” which works well on Everest – conquering is made far easier with the right specialist knowledge, backed with maximum support to take on the “bounce back” challenge   that is cancer.

Game Plan

This is the final transformative leg of the table that needs to be firmly in place to achieve the objective of returning to a life of “ease”, rather than “dis-ease”.

Having a high-level game plan is more powerful than Armstrong’s “hope”, that implies outsourcing of life’s key decisions. Armstrong did engineer a very high-level game plan to conquer cancer, and go on to conquer the Tour de France and the Pyrenees seven times. He had it all.

The trick for those facing cancer is to ensure a game plan made of the “right stuff”, and removing life’s constraints. Cancer is one of life’s constraints created by focusing on the wrong stuff, hence the creation of long-term resentment.

In the end, the great champions have three common denominators in their game plans to create balance in all three of the realms of life, namely physical, chemical and emotional:

  • Authenticity (a clear purpose in life);
  • Simplicity (a clear focus on what is important); and
  • Synchronicity an aligned and balanced approach to life).


It taught me that pain has a reason and that sometimes the experience of losing things – whether health or a car or an old sense of self – has its own value in the scheme of life; Armstrong