Updated 24 May 2018

‘Facing the possibility of death showed me the value of life’

Brett Simpson was diagnosed with cancer in 2007. He is now helping change lives as a cancer coach and CEO of Cancer Buddies.

In 2007, Brett Simpson was diagnosed with late stage squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) – he thought it was just a fever blister on his lip.

“Facing the possibility of death gave me true focus and showed me the value of life. It taught me how to live a life I dreamed of and pushed me to pull things off my bucket list and into my experience – which has become my life fuel of choice,” he says.

“It helped me reach for things in life I never dreamed I could achieve and it put my priorities into the right order – the order which gives me peace and satisfaction in life.”

Living for change

This year he is embarking on a personal journey that he calls "The power of change". Over the years, Simpson has learnt how to make substantial changes in life stick, which is why he wants to track the changes and effects to his health and mental wellbeing.

“Travelling the cancer road has helped me become a better cancer-specific coach and I would like to use the lessons and wisdom of my new changes to add further value for my clients,” he says.

“It will give me better understanding of learning how to support my clients and my role in assisting them in facilitating changes in their lives which are life altering,” he explains.

He says that the science of self-healing and the reality of what we put into our minds and bodies can lead to some uncomfortable truths about what we eat and drink, as well as how we think – how this impacts our lives.

“With cancer, there are hard changes which most patients need to make in order to give themselves the best chance to live past their cancer diagnosis and treatment. I decided that 2018 was going to be a year of self-imposed change.”

Many of his clients have to make big life changes, so he has chosen to make a number of large changes to his life. These include changes to his diet, cutting out alcohol, seeing a psychotherapist weekly for the year and entering a 100km trail run, to name just a few.

He acknowledges that change is difficult – we’re conditioned to think a certain way. “Changing our life, our thinking or anything that is significant, leads to uncertainty and stepping into the unknown, which is scary. Change requires us to step forward into this uncertainty and we are not used to living so vulnerably – the only state worth living in to be truthful.”

What he’s doing

Simpson says eating meat and drinking alcohol are conditioned behaviours. “Taking them out of my life has revealed the level of emotional suppression I have been surprised to experience. This seems to be turning out to be one of the best decisions I have made.”

He is also performing daily random acts of kindness – recently he wrote a kind message and left it on someone’s car windscreen. “I understand the science of what happens in the body when feeling love or connection and how it affects our own and the recipient’s health – something we sorely need in our world.”


Simpson also mediates. If you’re keen to give it a try, he suggests you start with five minutes a day for 21 days. “Don’t bite off more than you can chew and reward yourself for doing whatever you have been able to, rather than scolding yourself for missing a day – this is very important. Be gentle but consistent and you will feel the cumulative effects.”

He says he can feel his anxiety building if he misses a day or two. “And when I have had a good run of a few weeks without a gap, I can handle challenges so much better than I do without my practice.”

Dealing with a cancer diagnosis

Simpson knows from personal experience how difficult a cancer diagnosis can be. He helps patients and their families make decisions during a time in their lives when making any decision can feel overwhelming.

“Cancer is not what we think it is and we have more abilities and potential towards healing than we realise," he says. "I bring in a combination of teaching (nine scientifically researched pillars of healing a person can do with tangible tasks to move towards healing and away from disease), counselling and coaching to help patients shift their mental and emotional perspectives towards healing. I use modified tools learnt in my coach training to focus on healing and deepening process work, which have become the foundation of my toolbox and skill set.”

Brett Simpson will be speaking at the 2018 Festival of Learning hosted by the South African College of Applied Psychology. 

Image credit: Marike Herselman 


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CANSA’s purpose is to lead the fight against cancer in South Africa. Its mission is to be the preferred non-profit organisation that enables research, educates the public and provides support to all people affected by cancer. Questions are answered by CANSA’s Head of Health Professor Michael Herbst. For more information, visit

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