I Have Prostate Cancer—But Feel More Alive Than Ever

Michael J. Russer is an international speaker, author, and thought leader in human transformation and advanced sexuality and relationships. As a clinically impotent cancer survivor, he and his partner Jacqueline Lopez speak to cancer survivors and their partners about how to regain sex and intimacy in the face of their cancer.

What if someone said you could look, feel, and act decades younger in just a couple of months? If you are anything like I was six years ago, you’d probably say: BS!

But what I am about to share with you happened and continues to happen. In the space of about two months my appearance, physical and emotional energy, outlook, and overall health have become that of someone 20 years younger than myself. I’m 65.

Cancer of the ‘Heart’

First, some background. I was a serial entrepreneur most of my adult life—and I was successful from all outward appearances. My wife and I, along with our two children, lived in one of the most beautiful cities in the country. We had no debt (other than our mortgage) and we traveled the world. I was a focused and driven individual, determined to provide for my family and live the ‘good life’. Just one problem: I was extremely unhappy.

It turns out that all my drive, ambition, and success was hiding a big secret. I was slowly dying—at least metaphorically —from what I call my Cancer of the Heart. Throughout my life I had learned how to shut down emotionally but still remain successful in business. I shut down to avoid emotional wounding, and it prevented me from having authentic connections with anyone—including my wife and kids. Besides the psychological impact on me, this took a major toll on my appearance and overall energy. At one point, at age 59 in 2011, my 5’ 8½” frame was packing 185 pounds. I did not look healthy:

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Examine the eyes and you can see someone dying inside. But just four months later, my life would completely change.

Line in the Sand

By early September 2011, after dropping our youngest off to college, I ended my 26-year marriage, lost interest in my business, and was fed up with who I had allowed myself to become.

I knew I had to make a radical change. So, that September, I drew the proverbial line in the sand of my life. As I stepped over that line I vowed to be vulnerable (willing to feel everything, including painful emotions), authentic (showing up without pretense and always saying my truth), and most importantly, heart-open (taking down all the ‘armor’ I had put up around my heart to ‘protect’ it from wounding). I had no idea what was in store for me, but I knew that my commitment was total.

Transformation

This shift from being shut down and disconnected to completely heart-open immediately changed the way I saw life and the way it saw me. My face softened, my eyes sparkled with joy, and I had boundless energy. Friends who had known me for decades did not recognize the physicality or personality of this new Michael. Healthier eating and exercise habits helped me shed my excess weight to a more svelte 160 lbs. I also took much greater care in my appearance. This is me after that fateful choice:

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The photo is from a TEDx Talk I gave about my transformation. Thanks to this heart-opening I had cured my ‘Cancer of the Heart.’

It’s a good thing I made this life shift when I did, because life was about to present me with the biggest challenge of all. 

The Big C

In October of 2011, two months after my transformation, a diagnosis of prostate cancer attempted to shatter my newfound life.

Five other members of my immediate family all died from various forms of cancer, so when I was diagnosed, it was a big deal, but not altogether surprising. Despite having a radical prostatectomy—and seven weeks of follow-up radiation therapy—this cancer is still with me today.

Related: Browse men’s health and intimacy products.

I am now under chemical-castration therapy. It lowers my testosterone to near-zero to help starve the ‘fuel’ needed to grow. These treatments have left me fully impotent, along with the joy of having several full-body hot flashes every day. And, two years after my prostate cancer diagnosis, I was diagnosed with cancer of the immune system, or chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).

These two cancers, along with the effects of their treatment, should have trashed me. My CLL became so pronounced my doctors ordered weeks of intense chemotherapy infusions. Yet, after just two of those infusions, my CLL improved well beyond expectations, much to the surprise of my oncologist (who then canceled all remaining sessions).

The typical side effects of chemical castration therapy include chronic fatigue, mood swings, diminished cognition, and weight gain. For me, it was intense hot flashes. Add that to the well-known impact impotence and low testosterone has on intimacy, and you would think my life would be in shambles.

Yet, I now have more energy than ever and my life partner and I speak around the country to cancer survivors and their partners about how to regain intimacy in the face of cancer.

Ironically, my sexual intimacy has never been better.

Bravery In The Face Of Change 

I am living proof you can radically and permanently grow younger and enjoy life to its fullest despite circumstances. We live in a world that conspires to keep us shut down and disconnected from our hearts. All it takes is the courage and commitment to stay heart-open by tearing down the barriers we erect to prevent emotional wounding.

Maintaining those barriers takes energy and exerts a considerable physical toll (due to a constant state of alert for anything threatening to our fragile ego). Willingly dropping this armor frees up our energy and eliminates the associated stress, which I believe explains my rapid and remarkable physical transformation.

Related: I Coped With My Dad’s Illness By Running

Take it from someone who had these barriers up for 60 years: They serve no one. Now, despite my cancers and a lot of uncertainty, I wouldn’t trade my life in for anything.

Healthy habits are so important. You want to feel, look, and act 20 years younger—and experience the full joy that life offers? Fearlessly open your heart to everything, and watch how quickly the world transforms for you, and you for it.