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? 

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

  1. “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 and it is perfect for me at the moment as I clear my house of things that have been in it far too long. How could I live putting up with all of that stuff? And I have started a detox programme for my body that also has accumulated stuff that is inhibiting it from being free and feeling that sense of a blank canvas.

  2. I was really struck by your statement, just accepting that who we are in our tender nature is more than enough, in fact we are enough just as we are.

  3. Speed bumps is an accurate analogy to use. When we meet them in real time do we not see them at all and hit them with a bump, ignore and drive over them at great speed, get annoyed because we have to slow down, or see them coming, give them a welcome, brake and gently roll over them. Each choice reflects how we are in life and with our bodies.

  4. Michael it is such a lovely read, thank you for letting us into your heart and life. “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.”, and “taking on too much and blaming myself for incidents and situations that were really a result of other people’s choices.” I can really relate to this behaviour and the constant giving and taking responsibility for others without realising how much I am depleting my own body and placing unnecessary pressure on myself. Thank you Michael for sharing what’s truly going on in men’s lives, I can more easily understand what’s happening for women but it’s rare to have these insights for men.

  5. When we make life about simplicity, self love and self care first, it is amazing how the need to keep ourselves constantly busy and doing to avoid connecting with ourselves can drop away.

  6. We can also be observant to the many opportunities presented each day to heal, the way we walk, our posture, the food we eat, the quality of our voice when speaking. In connection with our body we heal as we move and this is felt by others.

  7. I had to come back to this today, and once again it deeply moved me to feel the tenderness, the willingness to have that blank canvas without any perfection, but an understanding of what it offers both for you Michael and all you meet is deeply inspiring, thank you Michael. And today I take into my day, in order to heal we need to drop the masks starting with an awareness that we have them and being willing to let them go.

  8. I am becoming aware to take each speed bump gently and that means learning to come back and deeply connect to myself. From making the choice to simply ask myself where I am at is supporting me to make the necessary changes.

  9. Absolutely gorgeous Michael, that blank canvas you speak of, how it’s not about taking the past with you or filling it up, but about allowing space to reflect us. And your way of describing the bumps in the roads is so deeply understanding, ‘half the battle is to see these happening and call foul and start over, one step forward at a time’ … it takes all the need of perfection out and again if we embrace it takes us back to that open canvas again. There’s such a tenderness in how you write, that melts and offers all of us an understanding of how life can be lived without overload and with grace and tenderness. Thank you for sharing this with us all.

    1. “that blank canvas you speak of, how it’s not about taking the past with you or filling it up, but about allowing space to reflect us’ This is particularly important, taking the past with us can load the blank space with guilt, regret, blame. No, the blank space is precious used only to deeply connect to the present, feel where we are and understand more.

  10. In conversation with someone who was elated that test results after a course of radiotherapy showed no more cancer in a particular area of the body, I reflected this ‘Be aware this is the start of your healing journey, not the end.”

    1. Indeed Kehinde. And what a beautiful gift of reflection you offered to that person, who now has an informed choice as to whether to choose a different path than the one they were on before the tumour disappeared, or not.

  11. Thank you Michael you write with openness, honesty and tenderness. Your openness reflects of how deeply you opened up to your inner-most self. Blank canvas, says it all. So intent are we to fill life with busyness and doing good for others at the expense of ourselves, constant whirl of motion and to what end, usually serious illness. Love the way you saw purpose in the blank space and made full use of it.

    1. This is so true Kehinde “So intent are we to fill life with busyness and doing good for others at the expense of ourselves, constant whirl of motion and to what end, usually serious illness.” We have really lost a lot of balance as we don’t have the time for true rest, reflection, simply being, nor deep self care nowadays.

  12. This is such a deeply touching and beautiful blog Michael. I love how you write about such serious things with such genuine lightness and playfulness and humour. And you can really feel the tenderness and vulnerability in your words that you are describing is a natural quality that all men possess but often find difficult to express.

  13. This is beautiful Michael, not just because of the way it it written, but because I can feel the openness of you in every sentence, to learning, to letting go, to changing and creating a new normal.

  14. Love your openness and willingness to surrender and learn from your prostate cancer Michael. Your cancer offered you time to explore what it means to be a gentle man, free from the roles and duty you took on from young to look after everyone but yourself, a great turnaround and a massive shift, thank you for sharing.

    1. Michael’s story shows the deeper healing on offer when a physical illness surfaces as it provides a stop, a chance to reflect and begin afresh in a more loving and self supportive way of living. It’s a chance to live more of our true selves beneath how we have allowed ourselves to be moulded to be.

  15. “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” – what an inspiration this must have been for the consultant to meet a patient who embraces a disease as healing and is committed to taking responsibility.

  16. “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?” We paint over splodges so no-one can see them but they are still there! I really get that you told your doctor you didn’t want to get back to normal but wanted a new normal. This is a forever deepening process of unpeeling and unpacking what our normal is so we can question what we want and don’t want on our canvas.

    1. Yes, this process of understanding that what we’ve accepted as our ‘normal’ might not actual be our body’s ‘normal’ is forever unfolding. Our body has a very clear natural rhythm that it would live quite harmoniously if we got ourselves out of the way and stopped overriding that natural rhythm, and this is what we’re learning to come back to and live from: our body’s lead, and not the mind’s.

  17. Your blog shares that the healing is so much more than the physical. The Prostate cancer can be removed but it we don’t change the moments or the way of thinking we keep the risk factor and the potential in our body. It seems, as a human race we like things ‘fixed’ but are not quite so keen to be the change we want to see in our lives and in the world.

    1. “healing is so much more than the physical” so true Lucy. True healing is a whole body healing and touches emotions, thoughts and quality of relationship we have with ourselves. Unless these are uncovered and explored healing is superficial.

  18. What you share here is so valuable, thank you Michael. The way you describe opening up to not only physically stopping but also taking the opportunity to re-assess how you live and relate with everyone, your expression and re-discovering depths of yourself that had been put to one side is truly inspiring.

  19. I was listening to a conversation on the radio yesterday about prostate cancer with the statistic being that 1 man every 45 minutes dies from prostate cancer. That is a shocking statistic which I feel is not known by many. Many people (men and women calling in on behalf of men they know) called in to give their stories and say they by chance did a test for that which came back positive and that sometimes a person had no signs or symptoms of it at all they just were at the doctors and thought they would do a test. The question is this never used to be the case many years ago, the word cancer was so rare and now it is so common and there are so many different types. Your humility and grace can be felt in this blog and is absolute gold as is what you have shared here ‘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.’ When we truly make it about our livingness that is when our health changes. Although that is not to say that when we get an illness or dis-ease it is not a blessing because it is. It offers us a moment to stop, reflect and care for ourselves on a deeper level as you have found.

    1. Yes I agree Vicky and part of that deep care for ourselves is taking care of our bodies by making sure we get checked and tested regularly and pay attention to any symptoms we may be getting rather than ignoring them and carrying on. Even if we could support men to just connect more to their bodies and pay attention to them more and seek support more that would be a huge result!

  20. It is incredible how we can identify ourselves with roles and ways of being that seem positive in life but when we do it without regard for ourselves we can get really ill from it. Just the idea that just being ourselves is enough is a lot for many to consider but it gives a beautiful space for living simply.

  21. As women we are starting to talk a lot about the roles we take on and how we feel we need to be everything for everyone else, leaving crumbs for ourselves. It is fabulous to read about the pattern of going into the role of father and doing too much to look after the family. It seems the details may differ but both role taking has a harmful impact on the body.

  22. Looking at life after a major illness or incident as a blank canvas is a beautiful way to approach life Michael, then every move, every choice is fresh, new way forward. The key is to keep our canvas blank so that every day we have the same opportunity.

  23. When we live in a way where we carry out behaviours of doing for others without the love for self first (and this applies to both men and women) then no doubt there are going to be consequences. We have to realise and learn the connection between our daily choices and ill-health, meaning that every choice we make that is not in honour of who we are first leads to illness and disease.

  24. I love coming back to read this blog, because there is always more to explore, to actually accept how deeply we need to rest after surgery is a great reminder of how much our body can heal when we surrender and honour the delicateness of our own being.

  25. A beautifully raw sharing Michael – allowing me to feel the depths to which we are responsible for our bodies and they will show us when we are not being this. Men are generally good at not talking about what it feels like to be vulnerable – so just by opening up in the blog it is a beautiful reflection to other men. The start of your canvas.

  26. It’s been a while since I have read this blog but I never tire of it. My father is one of those men that died with prostate cancer and not because of it – he died of another type of cancer, Leukemia. I suppose my point is that the men in my life have never been very good at going to the doctors and are masters at ignoring getting health checks and the like. Thanks to Serge Benhayon and Universal Medicine my husband has upped his game in the health check department and no longer ignores getting things checked out, which as we know can lead to finding cancers that cannot be treated due to being diagnosed too late.

  27. That canvas, the life we show to the world. Often painting it according to what and how everything outside of us says how to color in. This is confirming a question I asked myself earlier this morning – How do I feel from within my body to color life? Not what I think is expected.

  28. How many people miss this golden opportunity of having a clean slate to start afresh? There was a famous football player that had a problem with alcohol and required a liver transplant and carried on to destroy the new liver by not changing the way he was living. He just made, as many do, made a pit-stop, fix and go.

  29. We men, here in the UK have recently pulled to the front of statistics; more men die of prostate cancer than women with breast cancer. Could it be part of the problem that we avoid seeing doctors? How do our values and beliefs add to our illusion that we are indestructible? There are even some men that have stated they would rather die than have what they think is an invasive examination. Are we not cutting off our nose to spite our face? The PSA test is a simple blood test to catch the disease early! But, we, need to choose to have the test.

  30. “I can’t heal unless I drop the mask” – a stunning sentence, and it really asks me of how committed I am, how willing I am to go there, to really have the canvas erased completely and start making choices anew with awareness.

  31. What is interesting about the process described here is how your relationship changed with your own body and health with an increased understanding and engagement. Involving looking at how your lifestyle and quality may have contributed to your health issues.Very inspiring Michael!

  32. It is true that if healing were easy we would not learn much. There is so much to appreciate for the changed you have made Michael, and it is humbling to read your experience and what you have taken from this time.

  33. This is so humbling to read Michael. In your vulnerability and tenderness there is the solid strength that holds us all, to go to this level of surrender as well.

  34. A lot of people talk about “fighting cancer or battling cancer” which puts them into an energy of having to conquer something or overcome something. What I love about this article is that there is not a sense of having to battle anything, but more an invitation to surrender to the process and allow the healing to occurs from that place of deep acceptance.

  35. Just the understanding that a disease begs to accept what brought us there, let it go, and embrace the fact that we will have to re-imprint life, and construct a new is a great new beginning. As the blog masterly puts it, there is a blank canvas waiting to be painted. It is our responsibility what we put on it or not.

    1. Eduardo, I love this view on life and on disease, with everything in life we have a choice. When we are forced to stop we indeed have a blank canvas ahead.

  36. My biggest take-away from re-reading your blog, Michael is that regardless of gender and illness, we optimise our physical healing only if and when we’re prepared to get completely naked, open and surrendered to being honest about the choices we have made that have contributed and led us to the illness or disease in the first place. Dropping the mask, the pretence, the self-denial is the first step. Being able to acknowledge our vulnerability is the second.

  37. Thank you Michael, a lovely sharing, it’s so beautiful that you accepted your illness and decided to use it as the healing it is, a true inspiration for others who may be heading down the same road you went down, but now can be inspired to turn back.

  38. “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.” Just this line alone is a medical revolution.

  39. There is something incredibly beautiful about seeing each day as a blank canvas, not worrying about what has happened in the past and not fearing what is ahead of us but just allowing life to unfold before us like a rose petal.

    1. These are such deeply healing words that say so much about our instant needs to paint a picture of the future not stopping to appreciate the past and what we are living at present.

  40. Michael, I loved this part ‘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?’ Because how often do we get an opportunity to have a blank canvas but hang onto what we believe is safe based on our previous experiences, if we hold back on our conversation we miss out on what could be on offer a deeper and meaningful exchange, all we need to do is to allow ourselves to be more open.

  41. I can relate to what you have shared about the slow reveal of medical information. It is a gift that some practitioners have to know exactly when and how much to share with their clients. There is a lot to take in with a new diagnosis, reactions can come up and a masterful doctor will read and respond to all this.

  42. Thank you for your raw yet honest account of how one is offered a new canvas piece to start imprinting the quality one can live if they choose to be all that they are. Very inspiring!

  43. To feel that you are starting again with a blank canvas is such a gift to yourself and all those around you. We can never underestimate the power of illness and disease to bring true healing.

  44. I’m so incredibly inspired by people’s stories on this site. Who would have thought one could find joy in illness? Story after story of people seeing illness on a deeper level, seeing it as an offering to deepen their lives and bring more love to their bodies. This story is an incredible tale of exactly that, thank you.

  45. A stunningly honest account of your journey that appears to be blessing in disguise despite the unpleasantness and seriousness of the condition. If only everybody was this willing to appreciate the stop that comes with illness…embrace it… heal and then and see their life as a piece of art to create their masterpiece based on the lessons learned. Gorgeous.

  46. This is a very moving and vulnerable story, I feel like I never really understood the reality of prostate cancer until this detail was gifted in this blog. It is quite beautiful to hear a man surrender to healing on every level, to the needed surgery and medication of course, along with a deep consideration of how to move forward in a new way that heals the issue from the inside out. We all know that the body talks, sometimes it speaks very loudly and other times it’s just a whisper, the positive thing about cancer is that it’s obvious and it gives you the chance to reimprint everything, it gives you a blank canvas to work with as you so eloquently state in this article.

  47. Beautifully shared Michael – healing from illness is an opportunity to look at things differently – to see it as a marker we can learn from and appreciate what there is to let go of. What you share here is your vulnerability and your sensitivity as a man – letting down the guard and allowing others to support you just as much as you have supported them.

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