25 April 2020: My energy is pouring into all-round physicality after cancer treatment. It is helping me rediscover my manhood. I still feel sore and a kind of emptiness where my prostate used to be, but the rest of my body is raring to go. Since I got the six-week PSA clear result I have also been cleared for all kinds of physical activity.

I am lucky to have bounced back into action. It helps me keep two of my pre-surgery promises to myself:

  • My libido is not limited to my sexuality
  • My manhood is not limited to my libido

We are so privileged to be “caught” during South Africa’s most severe Covid-19 lockdown in such a wild and remote place. While outdoor exercise is banned in the cities, we are free to roam this land where we’re supporting recovery of indigenous vegetation. I revel in the scope it gives for sheer physical action – and it really helps me celebrate being alive after cancer treatment. As mentioned before, robotic assisted laparoscopic surgery (RALP) is miraculous in terms of quick recovery time.

Morning yoga on the lawn

Building a new compost heap

Digging trenches for water pipes

Planting indigenous trees

Dawn breaking over Palmiet River Valley on our morning walk

Dawn hikes

Physicality after cancer - making fires

Evening fires

Libido is more than sex

Any kind of prostate cancer treatment impacts men’s entire genital area – and for most of us, sexual function is impaired for months and/or years. This outdoor life teaches me that physicality after cancer is not at all limited to sexuality. I made a promise to myself before treatment:

I will love life and continue to put my energy out in the world the best ways that I can

It is really important to me to acknowledge that right now, the majority of my libido is non-sexual. And, to my great surprise, this is actually quite fulfilling.

There is something deep going on for me about appreciating just being on this planet. Being connected with the earth and in good reciprocal relationship with nature. I am grateful for being able to nurture life by planting trees, bringing water to them, and husbanding the cycle of life through composting.

Manhood is not limited to libido

I live in a man’s body and like it or not, a big part of my identity is linked to my manhood. I feel chunks of identity I’d taken for granted are simply fizzling out.

My radical prostatectomy treatment has permanently removed my ability to make babies – and I am so lucky I already have two fine sons. Now my treatment is also seriously impairing my ability to have conventional sexual intercourse. This deeply frightens me. But as I wrote in my journal this morning

“My nightly healing practice is helping me to simply accept that my sex drive is taking a break. It helps me have compassion for myself while my system both recovers and rewires.”

Yoga, hiking, digging, tree planting and making fires are in no way limited to male people! Yet for me, there is something deeply therapeutic about re-engaging with these activities. I am rediscovering my manhood through physicality after cancer. Somehow this physicality is helping me re-inhabit my (male) body. And it definitely helps me accept the new kind of maleness that is beginning to emerge after cancer.

An edited version of this post also appears in Psychology TodayPsychology Today