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? 

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

  1. This is a very profound sharing and very detailed, which is appreciated. You share what true healing is! It likely resonates for many men as you raise multi layers of being a man and the roles being played but are they true.

  2. Thank you for sharing Michael, the deeply resting is a challenge for many who have been, and some who still are unwell, great that you are honouring this, ‘and gently cajole me to deeply rest’.

  3. It seems like there is a huge epidemic of push and drive and always being on the move or doing something, very little time taken to just be and appreciate what it is to have this body in the first place and then what a responsibility it is to look after it. The body has a huge capacity to look after itself but these rest periods are crucial to balance the overrun systems. Then learning to live without the tension which is well presented by Universal Medicine and Serge Benhayon and appreciating ourselves, another valuable ingredient to the healing process especially when we have focussed on attending to the needs of others and taken on responsibilities that might not be truly ours.

    1. The push and drive is such a common factor in how we can run our lives that is built by a system of living that encourages more but offers less in quality. Thank you for sharing that when we get to the stage where we need to review and revisit the impact this has on our body there is the option to surrender and let time unfold and the healing to show us another way.

  4. I too was diagnosed with prostate cancer and opted for surgery. In one way my life has improved, in that my diet is more healthy and I am more aware of what I had pre cancer. On the other hand I learned how important it was for me to be able to perform sexually, and how much my quality of life has suffered as a result of no longer being the man that I was. I am grateful to be alive, for sure. Humour helps, but I grieve for that which I and my partner have lost. Most men have no idea how good it is to have a prostate!!

  5. “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.” – This is such a great point – the difference between physically stopping and then taking it to a deeper energetic level of actually letting go inside and allowing ourselves to re-balance completely – to not be running in excess motion inside even though we can’t necessarily move physically.

  6. Stops provided by the body are such a blessing. They are very definite and there is no wiggle room of, “I will just do this, then I will slow down.” It does allow us a moment to get off the treadmill of life that we have created, look back at it and see what makes sense and what would seem crazy to an onlooker.

  7. I love what you shared about the way the doctor explained your diagnosis to you. The ‘slow reveal’ is an art form that some doctors have perfected. They know that this news is a lot to take in, so they keep it simple, keep the care and support up to the patient and deliver in small chunks, as the patient is ready to hear it. This, as you say is a very steadying and reassuring way to hear about your condition and treatment options.

  8. I haven’t read this one in a while and as I come back to it I feel like I read it on a new level. I have been reading how one person’s healing is all our healing and one person’s disease is all our disease – no more illustrated than by your blog. As a society I feel we are so focused on what we do that who we are takes a back seat and allows space for our bodies to get so depleted that we get sick. Thank you for sharing and for bringing us all along with you.

  9. Thank you Michael, there is much to reflect on in your blog. I love the point that you are making here about healing and curing. Curing the prostate cancer is having the cancer removed but healing the cause of the cancer is a whole other thing. The fact that you know that the way that you had been living had affected your health is huge because so many people do not want to accept that the way that we live affects us. The moment we accept this, healing can begin because responsibility is taken for the fact that everything that we do matters and has a consequence.

  10. Great to share these experiences Michael, so few people open up and share cancer experiences. Also a blank canvas is a great way forward. Most simply want to return to their life as it was, the life that caused the cancer in the first place, so much wiser to start afresh.

  11. I love the honesty and vulnerability you bring to this sharing Michael. “Don’t get me wrong but if the healing were easy I would learn nothing”. Illness and disease are moments of stop, where reality and our bodies force us to pay attention. It is deeply sad that it takes this, but sometimes it is the greatest gift we are offered. Reflecting on my life this is, without doubt, the case.

  12. This is deeply healing to read Michael and I don’t even have a prostate! The line that stands out for me is – “I can’t heal unless I drop the mask”. In these 8 words lays the wisdom of the entire Universe calling us to let go of all we have allowed to impose on our true self; the incredible, tender, precious, wise and loving being we all in-truth are.

  13. What a great example of how showing an interest in ones own health and becoming open “to finding out more about my health,” has huge positive implications, from the smallest of health issues to those that could prove to be life threatening or seriously debilitating. Very inspiring Michael, not only for men (with such high statistical chance of developing prostrate cancer), but for men, women and children alike.

  14. It’s amazing to read how detached we can be from ourselves and what goes on in our own bodies. It’s like something picks and chooses deliberately how much we look at and how much is discarded. When I read articles like this I see that we are only willing to do what we need to, just get it over the line so we can get back to what we were doing. It’s like when there is a speed bump our first thought is how to get around it or to get over it quickly so we can keep going fast. We don’t look at the message, healing or blessing it brings deep enough. I see this in me the just get over the line and the wanting to keep things as they are parts but as this article brings we are becoming more and more unwell as men and people. What are we missing and not seeing? What articles like this bring are awareness, awareness to the fact that there is more to us, more to an illness like this, more to healing, more to everything than we currently see.

  15. Michael, I just love how you share regarding your illness ‘I embrace all that has happened and don’t see my healing as punctuated by complication.’ I cannot but wonder how different the health care system would be if all patients and their significant others viewed illness in this way?

  16. A beautiful sharing coming from deep within for us all to realise the power we hold in our own healing and the gift this is to ourselves and everyone alike. The tenderness and sensitivity that this illness has released is so deeply touching and the acknowledgement of this in all men innately is something very powerful and beautiful to feel.

  17. ‘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?’ I love this, sometimes it seems hard to let go of things from the past but if they are going to inhibit the clarity of the moment they have no place in our lives. Old ways of being, as we recognise them and become aware of them need to be honestly appraised. I also love how you mention deep rest as part and parcel of your ongoing healing. Again it is all too easy to be drawn in to the business of the world without allowing our body the grace of an inner deep restfullness.

  18. Michael your magic and art has been felt in the depth of humbleness and wisdom your words carry. A truly remarkable sharing about what it is to truly heal, let go and surrender.

  19. This is a deeply inspiring blog Michael. Our bodies offering us a clean, blank canvas in the form of illness/disease is one thing, but to then truly embody this and take the time to honour it, rejuvenate and change the way we live to take greater care of ourselves in the long run is what can really transform our life.

  20. The choice of the blog title is very powerful Michael as the canvas can be splattered with many images that we have carried time and time again of how we should be. This healing was an opportunity to strip back so much that we all can invest in that leads us along a path that is far from our truth. To surrender and allow yourself to be tender are the new prints that are waiting to be placed on your canvas. A profound marking for others to feel and appreciated through your recovery.

  21. What a great way to relate to illness and disease: a blank canvas that lets us re-imprint our lives with a deeper “reflection and a living commitment.” Very inspiring. Thank you Michael.

  22. The clarity with which you write offers all who reads it a life changing opportunity. You are a great point of reflection in your grace and surrender.

  23. It seemed like this was a true blessing as it gave you the opportunity to stop, let go and reflect. To take your foot off the accelerator and to start to deeply love and care for yourself in a way you have never done before. As others have shared the way you have written this so openly and transparent offers a healing for all and I particularly like this part ‘I can’t heal unless I drop the mask’. Also I just want to say it was an absolute pleasure travelling with you and your family a week ago, I felt I got to know more of who you truly are as a person which includes your absolute gentleness love and care for both yourself and others. This was very tangible felt and appreciated.

  24. These big health events are real opportunities to make significant changes in life, and very well illustrated by your choice to put in place regular care and check-in points with medical checkups after you’d had a heart attack. How this simple choice then allowed the expansion and understanding that took place during the process of early detection and coming through prostate cancer.

  25. Michael I love your sharing because your blog actually covers so much, your willingness to understand and make changes to your life and how through those changes you have a blank canvas.

  26. “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 love how you have fully embraced the healing on offer – well done, it’s very inspiring, you accepted the help of a doctor for your healing, and I can tell with your verbal exchange you were also able to offer him a fresh perspective which he agreed with and could well be considered a healing too.

  27. In this whole blog never did I sense any blame, shame, hiding away or victimhood for having cancer. Such an approach, to see it as a wiping the slate clean and starting again fresh is a completely different way to how en mass the world views and relates to cancer.

  28. its interesting that we often post surgery need to be reminded to deeply rest and can feel a bit daunted by the concept- for so many of us, that is not our first ‘go to’ in recovering from an operation, its often more about how quickly can i get back into work.

  29. Each day, in fact each moment can be a new beginning where we start to make different choices about the way we want to live.

  30. Michael what you share is so immensely valuable and full of so many gems I am at a loss for words. This article is not only worth a read, but many reads and rereads. I will share it on my Facebook page 🙂

  31. In order to truly heal we need to let go of the past, but this cannot be done until first we have observed and understood in full, the steps we have walked that led to the dis-ease in the first place. Your account of your experience Michael is deeply healing for us all, prostate cancer or not, for it shows us it is never too late to reimprint the disregard we have walked, with all the love that we are. Totally inspiring, thank you.

  32. ‘– it’s one thing going through it oneself – it’s quite another for one’s partner.’ I totally agree Michael it is easier for the patient than it is for their partner, and when we communicate with honesty and don’t hold back how each other is feeling, there is an understanding that can only be supportive because there is nothing that is not openly being shared.

  33. It is interesting how there are these great stop moments and like you, we can all take these in hand and make the changes we see that need to be made – but then, slowly and eventually the old ways do start to creep back in, and the rush and the drive and the overbearing need for achievement starts to take over and then suddenly we are back at the doctors again. How does this happen? And why can we not sustain change, even when it feels so wonderful to be in our bodies with love and presence and care? I have been exploring this question a lot lately and am discovering that there is an art to consistency – that is, there is work to be done each and every day for the quality of life that we each want to live with, it simply will not happen on its own, we have to choose it again and again and again as this is a forever lasting choice that continues to present itself and quite simply when we do not choose it – the drive and push suddenly becomes our only other option. So in effect, we simply choose the drive through the default of not actively choosing to be in our bodies with love and presence and care.

  34. So many men experience prostate cancer but don’t have your understanding of what it means and just want to ‘get back to normal’. Your story is inspiring, Michael in that you show us there is another way, to take the lesson life is offering and to ‘deeply rest’.

  35. A beautiful and inspiring blog to come back to Michael. I just love what you expressed in the last sentence; what a divine living reflection on your canvas of life;
    “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”.

  36. How wonderful it is to see something like Prostate Cancer as an opportunity to start afresh… a blank canvas as you say. I feel that every moment is like this also, an opportunity to make a new choice, to start again. We need not hold on to the past, for in that moment it does not exist if we so choose to start afresh.

  37. Very profound Michael, the blank canvas is not so blank as it might appear on the surface… not from what you’ve shared above anyway. To express all you have with the openness and honesty you have, already requires a connection to something very grand within, however little it might yet be lived in it’s fullness.

  38. If we know that what we are doing is not working, if we are clear that something is out of kilter, isn’t it for the best that we simply stop, and take a zoomed out view of our whole life? I love the way you describe this opportunity Michael as a rolling canvas. The truth is this doesn’t just cover this life but flows on to the next. What an artist God is and what beautiful visions we can help paint, when we see that we are here to return to making life about Love.

  39. Thank you Michael, your blog deeply touches me. Your full stop due to prostate cancer becomes a full stop for me now while reading you. I’m not ill at this moment, but I also have a blank canvas in front of me, the opportunity of learning and surrendering through this beautiful life.. Am I appreciating this enough?

  40. Our health is a great leveler and when things go a bit off it is an opportunity to ask the big questions about how we live – some take this opportunity and some do not. I loved the way you have observed everything happening around and whilst it has been illness and disease that has brought you to this point, what many of us do not realise is that we all have a blank canvas in front of us – its our choice whether to see it this way or not.

  41. It is very common to read how people take on roles within their relationships, and rarely do we question the roles until something drastic happens or a physical ailment stops us in our tracks. Occasionally you read of someone who sees the stop for what it is and totally changes their outlook on life, and often they report that it is the best thing that could have happened to them. Then you have those who intended to change but fell back into their old ways of being.

  42. Such a beautiful sharing Michael, thank you so much. Your tenderness is very apparent and just gorgeous. It was very interesting too to hear a man admit to ‘…doing lots for everyone else without stopping or just being the tender man I am and feeling that was enough.’ This way of approaching life I thought was the preserve of women but it turns out men go down this path too. It seems we all have a lot to learn about how to be.

  43. You have shared so many great points Michael, but for me today what stood out is that our first step on our path to truly heal is our openness to being honest with ourselves and how we are living, and being willing to surrender to the truth that our bodies reflect to us. As from here we can begin to discover the magic of who we are by letting go of the behaviours, emotions and choices that keep us caught in ill-momentums, instead allowing us to live more freely in connection to our essence, our Soul.

  44. Michael, this is exquisite, deeply fragile, and so open and fragile – and this can only be written by a man who has chosen to connect deeply with himself and let his tenderness be who he is. Your canvas is clear, and a magnificent reflection to us all.

  45. Very interesting blog. With prostate cancer affecting one in two men over 55, you would think that there would be lots of coverage and discussion on this illness, but no it seems something people prefer to keep as bit of a secret, so well done Michael in bringing into the open with lashings of honesty. Keeping it secret serves no one.

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