A Blank Canvas Waiting – Life After Prostate Cancer

by Michael Nicholson, Company Director and Business Owner, Somerset, UK

I was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer. It’s not something that I felt and there was no pain, but I had been getting very tired during the previous 12 months, so when the diagnosis was announced it was no huge surprise. I’d known it was time to stop because my body was saying so. Immediately prior to the diagnosis I had just planned my month ahead and it involved being in Germany for 5 days, Greece for 5 days, Kent for 2 days, possibly Spain for 4 days, London for 4 days and various meetings elsewhere – leaving only about 6 days at home. It was an insane schedule and it needed to stop. And by stopping, I suddenly realised that I had the most amazing blank canvas and I could work my magic on it in whatever way I truly chose to live.

The process of discovering the cancer started with seeing a consultant about the PSA levels that had been recorded at my regular medical check ups, which I had been persuaded to have following a heart attack three years earlier. During this time I had become open to finding out more about my health, which as a man was not something that I had been previously inclined to consider – so this in itself was a true change and fundamental in setting me on the best course to detect and treat early the cancer that presented.

PSA stands for Prostate-Specific Antigen and basically, in a rather crude way, indicates the likelihood of a man having cancer cells in his prostate. It may not be perfect but it can help to detect cancer early. Although my PSA level was not overly high, there had been a change, which lead the Consultant to order an MRI scan. This turned out to be abnormal and so a biopsy was arranged. His intuition and experience proved to be correct and very gently he explained that there were a lot of cancer cells in the left part of my prostate, fewer on the right side, and something needed to happen. He had a beautiful way of the ‘slow reveal’ and it all felt very re-assuring. Of course the more you ask the more will be revealed and it’s a fine assessment on his part as to where to draw the line, as clearly some information is not worth sharing until such time as it becomes evident that it needs to be. Slowly I am being informed – I am learning.

I am no doctor, nor indeed am I very knowledgeable about the workings of the body. I’d studiously ignored everything medical. I now learnt that cancer cells in the prostate grow at different speeds. A very close friend has slow growing cells and a PSA all over the place – so no immediate action. I find that I have a PSA that’s quite stable but a relatively fast growing cancer – so immediate action. They say more men die with prostate cancer than of it, but not if it is growing fast.

My choice was surgery or radiotherapy, with a course of oestrogen (to kick-start the treatment). There are other procedures, but this is not a medical dissertation. I opted for the surgery and it all happened very quickly. In addition to the first consultant I am fortunate to have two other excellent surgeons who will perform the operation. I am told that it will be a Laparoscopic Radical Prostatectomy (LRP), which means keyhole surgery and it turns out that they use 3D for only the sixth or seventh time. We chose a venue and a date, and the deed is done. Afterwards it’s for me to stop not only physically but also deeply letting go and allowing others to do what I would previously, naturally and expectedly, have leapt up to do for them or with them or on their behalf. I very much took on the providing role of the father for family, friends, colleagues and employees, doing lots for everyone else without stopping or just being the tender man I am and feeling that was enough. I absolutely know that this is why I got the cancer in the first place – too much doing for others and not feeling it was enough being just me.

So this is when I discover my blank canvas and I have the opportunity to show what I can do and it’s my type of art and my magic. Here is the moment when I can discover what true healing is and what it is like to have such an intimate part of me examined by all and sundry – because that’s all part of it, that’s the preparation, the getting completely naked and open and surrendered. I can’t heal unless I drop the mask. And I realise that I’m having detailed conversations with my consultant surgeon about matters that I never would have talked about before – or indeed would not have been open to if I hadn’t spent time with Serge Benhayon learning who we truly are as men and how sensitive and tender we are, and from my fellow men and brothers inspired by the way that the Benhayon family live. I find myself discussing erections with the surgeon and my wife and he reassures me that even if I lose some nerves there is a solution. And of course I wake up to find that I have a catheter coming out of my penis, so it begs the question as to how it got there in the first place.

The healing is the foundation of my blank canvas because without this I cannot let go, I cannot surrender and I cannot be truly tender and trust what is and with whom that is. I cannot have a blank canvas if it has splodges of the past on it – how would it reflect to others if it were smudged and difficult to see? Don’t get me wrong but if the healing were easy I would learn nothing. I had a heart attack a few years ago, I got a stent, I healed easily, I changed my way of living even more, and then gradually I climbed back on the express train. I thought that I had changed and indeed I had, but I had not changed from the role that I had been brought up to live and which had carried me upwards but was destined to abandon me and drop me downwards with injury and illness – destined to learn what is true. I now know that I had overplayed the father role, taking on too much and blaming myself for incidents and situations that were really a result of other people’s choices.

My surgery has been, by all accounts, successful; the surgeons have eviscerated the prostate and removed all the cancer. But my healing this time round (as compared to just mending after my heart attack) is bumpy – full of speed bumps. My blood pressure dropped and my blood count was low, so it took time to get out of bed and moving and the nurses worried about me getting blood clots in my veins (DVT). I had a large haematoma, which needed a drain, and two smaller ones that oozed; my bladder had to be stretched to join up with the urethra and just when I’m expecting the catheter to go, I was told that that the bladder is leaking and it needed more healing before it could be taken out – far better an extra week or two with this catheter, I am told, than a re-insertion. Eventually after 6 ½ weeks it was removed and then started the process of re-learning ‘how to have a pee’ – which has launched me on another journey, building a relationship with my pelvic floor.

The consultant apologises for the ‘complications’; I say that I embrace all that has happened and don’t see my healing as punctuated by complication. The consultant tells me he’ll have me back to normal in 3 months; I thank him and say that I don’t wish to go back to normal – that I have a ‘new’ normal. And he concurs.

I find that I’m coming to terms with me and my body, and the scene is set for me to start work on this blank canvas of my life because I have felt the healing every inch of the way. I’m still learning the surrender and need to trust in this.

But when I was seeing this large expanse of whiteness stretching out in front of me and gently day dreaming in my hospital bed I had the sense that I was being looked after and being protected, such that nothing or no-one could or would get in the way of my healing and future living. And thus I was being shown that I had put aside all the physical commitments and now it was time to live a different way, to live in a way that would be in brotherhood with all.

The canvas has no end because it rolls over the horizon from this world to the next and from this life to the next. The speed bumps aren’t visible, but they’re there and I already feel myself being caught up in things that may trip me up – but half the battle is to see these happening and call foul and start over, one step forward at a time. I get the feeling that I’m observing a bit too much and waiting to take that first step. But just because there are speed bumps it doesn’t mean that they have to rise up and slow me down – it’s all down to my choices. It’s all down to my learning and my appreciation of me.

Getting prostate cancer is a big shock to the system, as all will know who’ve been through similar traumas and I was in a whirl. And here I feel even more for my wife – it’s one thing going through it oneself – it’s quite another for one’s partner. We discussed this at length with another couple, one of whom had breast cancer, and our experiences were similar. As the ones with the cancer we had something to do next, a sequence of planned events, a knowing of the next steps; whereas our partners felt all they had was uncertainty.

I would have really freaked out if it hadn’t been for everything that I had heard from Serge Benhayon, from Simone Benhayon and Serge’s family and the Universal Medicine Practitioners who have stood by me – they have all been with me and gently cajole me to deeply rest, as have my wife and my sons and their wives, and so many of our family near and far, and all those who as men have shown what it is like to be true men. I know that this is a teaching and a learning and it is now up to me what I can do with this canvas, this future returning, that is the choice that I now have every hour and every day and every week and every year.

My canvas doesn’t need paint on it – what it needs is a reflection and a living commitment. This will be my magic and my art.

Read more:

  1. Men’s health – starting the conversation 
  2. Video for men on communicating with your medical practitioner 
  3. Can you teach an old dog new tricks?
  4. Men – are we set up to fail? 
  5. Indestructible – or is there another way? 

971 thoughts on “A Blank Canvas Waiting – Life After Prostate Cancer

  1. This is such a beautiful blog Michael. I was pleased to have encountered it again; it’s not so much what you share, although this in itself is remarkable, it is how you are sharing it. Here’s to your special brand of reflection and commitment – your magic and your art – totally gorgeous to be a part of and to experience.

  2. It is true what you say here Michael in my experience that men often do not pay much attention to their bodies and to their health, until they get a health scare and even then there is a temptation to get the treatment and the solution or cure and then go back to the same life as before so it is great to hear of your approach here and deep reflection on your life that came about as a result of your illness.

  3. I have never come across a man who suffers from prostate cancer, I have never really been in close contact with somebody who had cancer so I cannot know the consequences first or even second hand. But i am aware of the shock the diagnosis can have on people, on family members and friends. Illness and disease can bring life into perspective, a wake up call that is needed. Sometimes we learn to stop putting others before us and to truly value what we sense is right, what we want to do because as some say – life is short and anything can happen at any point – the only time we won’t have regrets is if we have followed what we deem is correct for us to do.

  4. Very inspired to feel how your appreciation of a blank canvas is a reflection of your commitment to healing, and surrendering to whatever is to be brought forward. I can feel how we ourselves could jeopardize the process by having pictures and wanting to control.

  5. “And by stopping, I suddenly realised that I had the most amazing blank canvas and I could work my magic on it in whatever way I truly chose to live.” What an absolute gift this was for you Michael, to see this stop as a time to regather and re-evaluate where you were in your life, and what you could do to change it.

  6. I love how you have shared your experience so openly and honestly Michael. It is very inpsiring for both men and women alike.

  7. What an inspiring way to see your prostate cancer Michael as a blank canvas and a stop moment to review your life and look at how you have been living, and what was and wasn’t working for you anymore. Not everyone views their illness in this way but we get sick by the ill choices we make and if we don’t review them we blindly carry on until the next illness.

  8. This is such a beautiful read, and it relates to all men and women, that we can lose contact with the true essence of who we are and begin living from gender roles and stereotypes, and this places pressures and stresses on the body. I know it well myself, to feel like I had value I had to be doing something for someone, because I didn’t always know how to just be me and enjoy that, or how to put myself first and then offer my care to others after I was well taken care of.

  9. A beautiful testimonial from a man willing to share the process he is going through. Sensitivity is not about crying and being wimpy, it’s about the fact that naturally men and women are sensitive to feeling, feeling what is around and what is playing out in their lives. Feeling that the exhaustion put on the body from travels is damaging, when negating that sensitivity, men and women bring harm to their body – it’s simple. Why have we made it to be something it is not? Why have we introduced so many other definitions and societal expectations of what “sensitive” means – for it robs both men and women from our most sacred sense.

  10. So beautifully written Michael. A blank canvas has been wiped clean of all imprints and images that have us living life not in accordance to the truth of who we are.

  11. There is here a lovely appreciation for the skilful delicacy of the doctor as he unraveled for you the reality of your situation.

  12. Rereading your blog is like getting a wash of surrender and tenderness. To feel how deeply you surrendered, your delicateness, your gratefulness to the process and the support you have and the reflection you offer to each reader with this is truly a gift.

  13. Michael you make an important point about men and their health care. For you it took a heart attack and persuasion to get a regular health check. I find this with the men in my life as well, even though they send the people around them to the doctor for a splinter so to speak they are very stubborn in taking care of themselves. Your beautiful open and sensitive sharing here is a gift for men to see how different it can be.

  14. The surrender in your words Michael is felt. Thank you for offering a moment to stop, and reflect. Letting go and surrendering is something we do so effortlessly when young – we just do it – and the more we re-learn this way of being in life as adults, the more at ease and in flow we are with life: swimming with the tide rather than against it, uphill.

    1. Surrender (giving up the fight) is not only the key to healing, it is the founding stone to a rich life lived with truth and great love.

  15. So clearly and powerfully expressed Michael, we choose to get on those express trains of drive or withholding, merely delaying the truth that is there to be lived.

  16. Always love coming back to this blog Michael, there is so much honesty here and it is a beautiful invitation to discuss the intimate issues surrounding cancer that we tend to gloss over when there is the greatest value in being open and honest about the issues it raises, both for ourselves and our partners and families.

  17. Michael I love your deep sensitivity and how you share this so delicately. This is quite some experience and it is amazing you were able to surrender as much as you could to the whole process. What you learnt about yourself and what you share is super inspiring.

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