Journal

Journal entry by Michael Bischoff

I found out yesterday that I have a brain tumor that probably needs surgery soon. Let the healing adventures begin! 

I've been having headaches for the past month, but both the neurologist and I were surprised when they found a tumor in an MRI this week. They did a second MRI yesterday, and I have a consultation appointment with a neurosurgeon on Monday. I'm guessing they'll plan a surgery within the next week or two. We don't know much about the tumor yet, including if it is cancerous or not. 

I have felt surrounded by loving support. I'm very grateful for that. I have felt scared, sad, and numb--but I have felt the love of friends and family more deeply than anything else so far. I welcome more of that!!

Physically, I'm mostly feeling great right now, with just a tiny amount of pain on the back of my head. 
An image that I'm holding is that this tumor has come with a message, asking me to slow down and pay attention in new ways. I'm also imagining that the tumor has served its purpose, and that, a couple days ago, it started to shrink. I haven't had any headaches in the past few days. I invite you to hold this image with me, of this tumor shrinking and melting in beams of love. 

As you may know, I'm quite into that spiritual stuff. I understand this journey as an invitation to become closer and closer in intimacy with God and the source of life--both for me and those I'm connected with. Sharing that path with me and letting me know of your journey is about the most supportive thing I can imagine. I also know many people I love aren't into the spiritual or religious stuff, and I look forward to welcoming love and support in many other ways too. 

I'm very grateful that you are with me on this adventure. Jenny and I will put updates on this page and also let you know ways to be supportive and connected.

Gratefully, Michael
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Journal entry by Michael Bischoff

My amazing sister-in-law, Jean Larson, wrote the poem below as a letter to my tumor. Jean has super powers of open-heartedness, connection, and creativity--so I trust that her message will go straight to the tumor, with power and love. I'm feeling physically great, and savoring deep, loving connections with so many of you. Thank you!

**

Surprise Visitor

We were very surprised to hear of your arrival today.   You have come from a place we don’t understand. 

Possibly a refuge that lost its way?  We do know you must contain some love, because Michael helped make you.  

We will take time to read the messages you carry and then kindly guide and disperse you.

Part of you might climb to the apple tree outside the window.

Part of you might scatter over the laptop keyboard on the desk.

Part of you might jingle through the door in the collar around Bella’s neck.

Part of you might reside in the troll house at the lake.

Part of you might ride out in the handle bars of Michael’s bike.

So see……..unexpected visitor

you can say hello and then bid farewell and move along down the stream.

Journal entry by Michael Bischoff

HI friends,
I have a request for you, inspired by my friend Dawn Lehman. Dawn put together a guided meditation customized for my situation, read it herself and recorded it as an audio file, and emailed it to me. I imagine i'll be spending a fair amount of time in bed in coming weeks. I'd love to have audio recordings from friends to keep me company and keep me focused on receiving love. So, if you are inspired to, I invite you to do an audio recording of:
  • a prayer
  • a poem
  • a guided meditation
  • a song
  • a joke
  • a reading from scripture
  • a short message
  • etc.
And then email the audio recording to me. Most phones and computers have a simple audio recording app that lets you do this easily. 
Jenny and I go for the neurosurgeon consultation tomorrow (Monday) at 1:30 pm. We'll let you know what we find out.
love,
Michael



Journal entry by Jenny Larson

Hi friends,

It's Jenny, Michael's wife, writing this morning. Thanks for all of your love and support. We're definitely feeling rich in friends and love. It helps a lot.

Michael and our friend Janet were praying last week and an image of a waterfall, washing away the tumor came to them. A waterfall of love. He invites you to stand in that waterfall with him -- with us. I made an image of Michael in that waterfall (he's a bit of a giant compared to the waterfall, I know), posted here. We're also having some printed cards made, so ask for one if you see us so you can tape it on your bike handles, by your computer, near the kitchen sink and stand in the waterfall with us.

We're heading to the neurosurgeon today at 1:30 to find out more. We'll keep you posted.
Love,
Jenny

Journal entry by Michael Bischoff

Jenny and I just got back from meeting with the neurosurgeon. I'm feeling mostly gratitude and awe for how pieces are fitting together and for how well cared for and loved I feel. I have a surgery scheduled for this Wednesday afternoon to remove the brain tumor.  They won't do a biopsy before then, but will do that as they are taking it out.  There might be more treatment needed, but the surgeon and my primary care doctor agree that taking out the tumor is the first step in any case. I just switched my primary care doctor yesterday to a friend and neighbor who has been informally helpful. When we were in the surgeon's office waiting for them to schedule things, Jenny called him to ask about getting an appointment soon, and he said he'd just come to the surgeon's office right then. He was there within2 minutes and was very helpful in talking with us and the surgeon. That felt like one of countless moments of serendipity and grace.

I'll be doing a pre-op doctor's visit and another MRI tomorrow, and then jumping into the surgery on Wednesday. It is quicker than we expected, but Jenny and I are both feeling good about the plans. The guess is that I'll be in the hospital for 4-5 days and then have about 6 weeks of recovery.  So your prayers, thoughts, love, and other good stuff are very welcome on Wednesday afternoon and beyond. We'll keep you updated! Thanks for being in this with us. It makes a world of difference.   Stay tuned for other specific ways you can be supportive and connected. 

Journal entry by Michael Bischoff

It seems like a time when there is so much support and love available, that I should be clear about what I want. Jenny will follow-up later with practical things (like meals) that we could use, but I want to start with the big picture of some things I want:
  • I want the Twins to get in the playoffs. I want to be recovered enough to enjoy watching their Wild Card game. 
  • I want the healthy parts of my brain that are around the tumor to part gently, like the Red Sea for Moses, as the surgeon skillfully goes in and takes out the tumor. 
  • I want the healing being offered to me also somehow benefit my father, who has had health challenges with his brain most of his life.
  • I want the world to welcome all refugees with hospitality. 
  • When I wake up after the surgery, I want to be greeted with the news that the tumor was not only benign, but also respectful and wise, with some lessons for us all.
  • I want everyone to feel as much love and support as I do now.
  • I want the surgeon (Dr. Mahmoud Nagib) and everyone working with him to feel deeply appreciated and graced. 
  • I want to live another 50 years, loving my kids and my wife with gusto every one of those days.
  • I want to deepen the work I do (facilitation in support of just and sustainable communities), and do that work knowing more about the power of receiving love that I am learning this week.
  • I want the world to thank the threat of climate change for its necessary messages, as we are doing with the tumor this week, while also removing the threat of climate change with the speed and skill that the tumor will be removed this week.
  • In future years, I want Jenny, Isaiah, and Grace to look back on this fall as one of the best times in our family's life.
Tomorrow at 6:00 am, I'm taking a bike ride with my good friend Janne--to go in for tests and prep at Abbott Hospital. The actual surgery is scheduled to start at 12:30 pm tomorrow. We'll keep you updated. Thanks for being with us. 

Journal entry by Jenny Larson

Michael biked off to the hospital this morning to begin his day, which begins with another MRI (a functional one -- he will move his fingers, toes, etc. while in the machine so they know where all the important stuff is in his brain so they can plan the surgery). Then we'll have some time to hang out together before he checks in for surgery, which is scheduled to begin at 12:30. They expect it take about 4 hours. And they expect he'll be in the hospital around 5 days. We'll update when we can.

Here's a photo of Michael and his friend Janne, ready to bike. (He has little round stickers on his head from yesterday's MRI. They will line those dots up to the MRI during surgery for more precision. Yay for precision.) I'll join him at the hospital after the kids go to school. And don't worry, he's not planning to bike home. But it was important to him to head into this adventure on a bike. 

We have so appreciated all your love!
Jenny




Journal entry by Janne Flisrand

I'm the early-morning bicycle rider, also helping with updates during times when it's hard for Jenny and Michael to do them.

I  just got a text message from Jenny:

"I just talked to the surgeon. They're done! It went well with no complications. Less time than they anticipated. He said the tumor didn't come from another source in the body."


I gave her a quick call, and she is super-relieved, and it sounds like the afternoon passed relatively quickly, thanks to the presence of friends and family. "I felt cared for." There was good conversation and lots of snacks. 

Grace and Isaiah are at home with Jenny's sister, and she's expecting they'll come by later this evening when he wakes up. 

Journal entry by Jenny Larson

I got to go back and say hi to Michael a little while ago. He was sweet and alert. So so good to get to hold his hand and kiss him on the cheek. The bandage on his head isn't even that big. Our primary doctor was impressed by how good he looked. Just waiting for him to be assigned a room, then I'll get to hang out with him. Thanks for all the love and prayers today. It was lovely to check comments throughout the day and feel so many of you with us.

Journal entry by Jenny Larson

Good morning all. We have felt your care and love so strongly.

Michael has head pain and a bit of nausea here and there. He's not as energetic as when he came out of surgery last night. He didn't sleep a lot (neither did I). But he's happy to be here. Last night he bypassed ICU and went straight to a regular room because he was recovering so well. Also because the ICU was rather full, but we're grateful. As much as he was poked and checked on last night, it was less than it would have been in ICU.

One detail from yesterday. The word got out among the surgery staff, nurses, anesthetists, etc that Michael biked to the hospital that day. Everyone was really impressed and many people said they'd never heard of anyone else doing that. :)

We will probably find out more about the pathology of the tumor tomorrow. What kind it is and if there are more treatments ahead. Right now we're focusing on healing from surgery.

Love,
Jenny

Journal entry by Michael Bischoff

Tomorrow, I’m starting three weeks of daily radiation and a low dose of chemo pills, to treat the tumor on the left side of my brain. Hopefully, the recent surgery removed a lot of the new tumor, but my doctors assume there are still cancer cells active in that region. I feel pretty trusting that radiation is both a helpful treatment and one that isn’t likely to have lots of risks, since I haven’t yet had radiation in that part of my brain. Many things remain uncertain, though, such as if and how to treat the rest of my brain after the radiation.




When I met with my oncologist last week, I asked him how he currently saw my prognosis. He said that he hasn’t previously seen someone with this kind of cancer growing on both sides of their brain survive for many years, but maybe I could be the first he’s seen.




My mental abilities appear still feel slower than after the last surgery, but the changes are subtle, like when I could feel myself stretch to do the self-check-out lane for produce at Target. Or other times I need to take breaks when writing to keep my thoughts clear. I go in circles in thinking of what I want to write more than I used to. I sometimes mess up a word I’m trying to say, but I think the main ideas usually come through.




When I work with my health story colleagues, helping people prepare their stories, two themes we work with are fleshing out both the agency and communion within their stories.




In cultivating my own agency, I want to be proactive as a part of choosing my treatments, in partnership with my doctors, and not just passive, and I want to pursue wellbeing in my diet, exercise, relationships, and attitudes. At the same time, I want to surrender, receive, and accept what is outside my control. I find that the combination of agency and surrender is a quite a dance, with lots of grace needed to mix it together.




I’ve still been getting lots of time to sit at the river each day, one of the main things that helps me notice and receive deep connection and communion. There’s a particular tree that leans into the river that I’ve become quite attached to. I often feel connected there with Bruce Kramer, who spoke beautifully as he approached his death, interviewed by my friend, Cathy Wurzer. When I sit under that tree leaning into the river, I often have internal conversations with Bruce about the process of healing in preparation for dying. Though I didn’t meet Bruce when he was alive, I’ve had many conversations about choices we each made, or want to make, about treatments, quality of life, and opportunities for healing. Bruce made choices such as not getting a breathing tube, even though it might’ve extended his life. I find both the influence of Bruce and my tree companion nurture space for both choices and connections.




I was reminded about this paradox by my friend, Debbie A, who reminded me of Rumi’s invitation to “Be helpless, dumbfounded, Unable to say yes or no. Then a stretcher will come from grace To gather us up.” I honor both my helplessness and power, both in connection with the trees and friendships that hold me.


 
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Michael’s Story

Site created on September 25, 2015

I found out on Sept. 24, 2015 that I have a brain tumor. I had surgery the next week, and started radiation and chemo shortly after that. It is an aggressive kind of cancer called Glioblastoma, that requires ongoing treatment. We've created this site to keep friends and family updated. We set up another web page for people who would to give money to help pay the medical bills and also support our work and healing: https://www.gofundme.com/healing-for-michael-and-family (https://www.gofundme.com/healing-for-michael-and-family.   We) . We appreciate your support and words of hope and encouragement during this time when it matters most. Thank you!!

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