Journal

Journal entry by Michael Bischoff

When new health detours keep showing up. it sometimes feels like I'm doing a free fall, unable to hold onto anything solid and stable. Ironically, starting radiation and chemo last week felt like a fairly stable, useful thing that I could hold onto, until the radiation mask aggravated a leak in the surgery incision, and then I was back in the hospital, going down more unknown routes. 

But when I've paid more attention, the falling actually feels more like hang gliding with skilled guides and friends. I've always wanted to hang glide, especially when I lived in Virginia, and Jenny and I would go watch people jump off the Blue Ridge Mountains with hang gliders. 

My time now feels like hang gliding because it often feels like I have to make a choice to jump off a mountain, like a couple days ago when I agreed to the drain being placed in my spine without sedation (but still plenty of pain meds!). It also feels like there are many up currents of wind that I have the opportunity to seize and ride. When it feels like a free fall, I keep feeling an unexpected current of life's winds blowing towards healing. Many of these currents come in the form of messages and connections from you. I also keep being reminded that I'm not flying the hang glider. I'm surrounded by very talented and compassionate care givers, and I repeatedly see the ways we are all being guided by divine, unseen winds. 

Part of the joy of the feeling of hang gliding is gliding along side friends and family, who are on different, connected journeys, and taking delight in seeing you soar. Last week, my daughter, Grace, decided to give a speech to her class and run for student council. Last month, this would have been unfathomable for Grace. I'm finding so much joy in her new found strength. And when I heard that my friend Bo was recently appointed by Obama to the board of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. I felt another surge of joy in seeing someone close by soar. 

Sometimes, especially by myself at night in the hospital, it seems like most of the new interior places I'm being invited to are long pathways through suffering into freedom and letting go. They mostly feel like gifts, even though they are heavy gifts. I've been reminded this morning that joy is often on the other side of those pathways. 

I was also reminded by my friend Tom of the ways I'm on the path of healing from brain disease with so many other powerful people, including Tom's wife, Julie, and their walk with Alzheimer's, my father-in-laws time with Parkinson's, a colleague's small son who is also doing chemo for brain cancer, my father's hydrocephalus, and so many others. I'm honored to be linked with this powerful team. It feels like the compassion and insight that we collectively have could transform not only brain disease, but how we as humans relate to our brains and each other. 

This morning my surgeon offered me some encouragement by letting me know that the swelling on my surgery incision has almost gone away entirely, so draining the fluid seems to be working. I'll probably be in the hospital until at least Wednesday, as they continue to monitor that and take pressure off the wound, so it can heal. 

I've always loved to travel. Now it feels like I'm doing as much travel as ever, all from a hospital room.  Many of those travels with some of you. I look forward to sharing more of those journeys with you, as we jump together off mountains and glide over valleys, pointing out good winds to ride. 

I'm attaching the song that best fits for me this morning, "From This Valley." 

Journal entry by Michael Bischoff

I pass by a room in the interior castle, while distracting myself with Donald Trump on TV.

I can see John of the cross and Teresa of Avila in the room, comparing hidden notes about delightful wounds that tear away illusions of separation.

I'm intrigued, but I continue to let Donald distract me from the potential illusion-shattering  tube threaded up my spine or the cancer thinking of next moves.  
I thank Teresa and John for the glimpse of what I'm not ready for, grateful for both the glimpse and the distraction.

**

Another day in the hospital, some headaches and nausea, but not too bad, mostly just waiting for fluid to drain out of my back, to help with the healing of the incision on my head. The nurses say the worst part is the boredom, but I kind of like the quiet waiting time.

Journal entry by Michael Bischoff

Last night as I was falling asleep, I felt a sense of lightness, like I was riding beams of light, over some mountains and through the clouds. The Beatles song "Across the Universe" was playing. It turns out that feeling and image was a useful touch point today. 

Last night the fluid from the surgery incision leaked some more, so Jenny and I went back to the neurosurgeon's office this morning. From there, they admitted me to the hospital for something called a lumbar drain. It is a surgery where they stick a big needle in  near the bottom of your spine, and put a tube in there to drain out spinal fluid. In my case, it is to reduce pressure from the fluid on the incision in my head, so it has more space to heal. 

I have had very little physical pain in my life until recently, but I've spent a lot of energy trying to avoid pain. When I was about 8, I ran out of a doctor's office and into the woods to avoid a shot. I avoided it for the day, but still got it later. So today when the thought of being awake for the lumbar drain sounded especially worth running to the woods to avoid. I'm also aware that my dreading of physical pain has been quite tiring, and the dread is usually worse than the actual pain. 

So once I knew the lumbar thing was likely today, I wanted to be open to a different relationship with pain--one that opened me up to other people and to God in new ways, one that I judged less, and was more curious about. I was also pretty scared about it. When I found out that I couldn't get the sedation meds today because I'd eaten this morning, that upped the ante. 

Not surprisingly, the pain of the procedure wasn't as bad as I feared. It was intense and freaky, but it also felt like God was being gentle with me in my changing relationship with pain. During the procedure, I returned some to the floating over mountains while listening to Across the Universe in my head. I'm sure the narcotics helped with that too. And knowing I survived the procedure helped increase my confidence a little for the next things like that. I didn't feel completely broken up to compassion and suffering in myself or the universe, but i feel grateful for the gentle steps in learning. 
 
So now I'l probably be in the hospital for about 5 days, while the nurses monitor how much fluid comes out of the tube attached to my back. The hope is that this helps the wound on my head heal and seal up, and then we start radiation and chemo again soon after that. Today also reminded me and Jenny that we don't know what is around the corner, but we can keep taking the next step, paying attention to possibilities for new kinds of intimacy and grace along the way. Squeezing Jenny's hand during ouchy moments in the neugosurgeon's office has been one of my favorite sensations of the week, even though it was accompanied by being poked with a needle. I pray we keep noticing and soaking up the next moments of grace as we move forward. 
 
Your messages here on Caring Bridge and elsewhere are a lifeline for me. Thank you, dear friends. 

Journal entry by Michael Bischoff

Before my surgery, I posted a list of things I want. I felt really good about the list. It felt powerful and true to me and cathartic to name these things to you. A couple things on the list didn't happen. The Twins didn't make the playoffs. My tumor wasn't benign. Some other things are still in the works. 

I try to keep returning to my friend Janet's advice--grieve, deal with what is, and work on wonder.

Since starting radiation on Monday, some more things have happened that I didn't want to happen. I had been feeling happy about how well the incision from my surgery was healing. But then a swollen area of spinal fluid developed under the wound. This can be somewhat common and isn't necessarily harmful. But during my first radiation, the pressure of the radiation mask pushed out some of that spinal fluid. Yesterday a nurse from the surgeon's office put a needle in the fluid sack to drain out the rest of the fluid, but more fluid quickly came back in. Shortly later, the second radiation treatment pushed out a little fluid again. Then today, I'll probably get more fluid drained out before radiation, but if this keeps happening, they might have to stop radiation for a while so it can heal better and avoid infection. They might need to do more to stitch things back up to keep the fluid in. I started radiation and chemo feeling confident about this step, but the setbacks have felt deflating to me, even though they might smooth out fine. 

A coupe years ago, I invited many of my friends and colleagues to a TED-like talk,where I talked about how I had lived in the cult of self-development, often getting stuck while trying to make myself better by my own will. I asked for helping leaving the cult and instead surrendering with gusto to life--surrendering to community, to the source of life, and to the transformation of systems. After the talk, a thoughtful friend said to me that I talked a lot about surrender, but didn't seem quite ready to actually surrender. I think I'm being invited to next steps in the actual surrender, not denying or giving up what I want, but holding it differently, and allowing disappointments to help me to fall with trust into the love and grace that is much larger than what I want.

At the gathering we had a week and a half ago in support of my healing, we sang this song together: 

"Love prepare me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true.
With thanksgiving, I'll be a living sanctuary for you." 

What I need to be prepared to be a sanctuary for love might be very different than what I imagine I want. I pray that I can receive this preparation, even when it comes in unexpected ways. 

Many things on the list of what I wanted before the surgery did happen, or are happening, including a very effective removal of the tumor, and a very speedy recovery without loss of functioning. 
Some things I thought I wanted could turn out much better. If the Cubs come back to win this round of playoffs, and then the world series, that might be even better than the Twins making the playoffs. I'll hold that one lightly, though. 

In the time since surgery, I have felt more powerfully and tangibly than ever that there is a force seeking to shape us all to be sanctuaries for love, and I've also seen how we can work with or against this force. I have been repeatedly dazzled by seeing how fully many of you have been vessels for transformative love, like when my friend Emily poured so many of her gits into hosting the talent and prayer time for me recently, or yesterday when my friend Christopher prayerfully listened to my fears and my gratitudes so deeply and was so with me that I could feel it opening my heart in that moment. I've also been dazzled by our neighbor, Roxie, as she keeps bringing healthy, fatty snacks, and beams of love to our door. And I have had many very sacred conversations with friends that are still humming within me. 

I can still feel anxiety running through my blood stream about fluid leaks, infections, and more--but I also feel more held by God in it all at the moment, and invited by God into some new rooms in the Interior Castle that I mentioned in my last post. These rooms are ones where feeling my weakness or feeling knocked back lets me rest more deeply in God. In these rooms, my not knowing what will happen tuns me towards mystery and awe. I am held in the arms that I totally trust, knowing those arms are friends and care givers around me, who are themselves held by divine arms guiding them. As I have been feeling pretty good recently, I've been trying to be clear about my intentions, and how I want to approach healing. I trust there will be many times when my healing isn't about what I'm doing, but simply being carried by love and by many of you. I give deep thanks for the ways you are carrying me now, and the ways you will in coming months. 

P.S. We just got back from the surgeon's office today. They put in another stitch in the surgery incision area, hoping that will stop the leaking of the fluid--and they postponed the radiation and chemo until at least this coming Monday, to give it time heal. Here's hoping that works! 


Journal entry by Michael Bischoff

I'm planning to start radiation and chemo this afternoon. In writing this, I want to clarify for myself, and let you know, how I'm doing as I start treatment and talk about the larger picture of healing that I want to see this treatment as a part of.

First, something to celebrate. I had lost weight since this all started, and in the past week and a half, I've gained back 10 pounds, so I'm close to my normal weight. Thank you to all of you have been showering us with tasty, healthy, fattening meals! It is working! Keeping my weight up is quite important for the radiation and chemo. 

I have written a lot here about gratitude, which is what I have felt most deeply in the past weeks, but I also want to acknowledge the swirls of anxiety, fear, sadness, and anger that move though me. It is often triggered by relatively small things, like how I felt more fear of the pain of getting my stitches out last week than I did about the brain surgery the week before, since I was asleep for the surgery. I can then get stuck in a puddle of anxiety for a while. 

A week and a half ago, the oncologist told me and Jenny that 50% of people with this kind of cancer die within 18 months of diagnosis, some much quicker that that, some longer. My primary doctor says that because I'm young and healthy and because the surgery went so well, my odds might be better than this. At first I wanted to avoid this information about odds,and focus instead on savoring the present and doing each next step in healing. I still want to focus intently on those two things, but I also don't want to run from the information. I want the seriousness of the prognosis to open me up more fully to the transformative nature of this situation. I'm a different person now than I was 3 weeks ago, and I'll never be back to the normal of before that. I'm being invited into a new vocation and new kinds of relationships. I want to honor and embrace this. 

In the last few days, a little spinal fluid has leaked out of the surgery incision on my head, making a little swollen bubble behind my ear. This also freaked me out for a while, although the doctors say it probably isn't a big deal. It has been a reminder of the countless possible symptoms, side effects, and potential loss of functioning on the horizon. I think it is pretty miraculous that my surgery went so well, and that I still have full physical and mental functioning. I'm very open to miraculous recovery continuing without any damages, and I also want to be open to living even more fully with different abilities. For now, I'm delighting in being able to talk, walk, see, hear, write, read, feel, etc.

In the time since the surgery, I've moved often between the heaviness of the medical information and the intense lightness and happiness that is also often with me and around me. The heaviness of medical information--like the information that, statistically speaking, my life will probably be much shorter than I expected, and that I know what I'm likely to die from often pulls me into living in my head and anticipating future scenarios. 

At the same time, I've never felt more depth of joy than I have in the past weeks. A few days ago, I took a long walk in the woods with Isaiah at Afton State Park. As we walked in one of our favorite places, we talked about mortality and loving each other well. After that, I cuddled with Grace in our yurt at the park, as Grace made up a story about 2 kids who invented a machine that got rid of all the brain tumors in the world. Last night, the Morning Star Singers came to our house, stood around our family, and sang joyful songs of healing to us. With many friends, I have had the most connected, sacred conversations we've ever had in these past weeks. I don't want to choose between the heaviness and lightness. I want to integrate them and allow them to deepen and open each other. 

While I'm delighted my brain surgery didn't seem to take away any of my functioning, I had quietly hoped that the surgery would remove a few extra things with the tumor. I'm still addicted to constantly checking email. I thought that might go away. Really, to be recovering from brain surgery 2 weeks ago and still be trying to always have inbox zero, that's crazy. Still annoyed by loud chewing sounds, and when people don't hear what I say. I thought it would be OK if those parts of my brain went out with the tumor. 

The radiation and chemo treatment is a little less targeted than the surgery. I want to see this treatment a a part of a broader step in healing, not just killing cancerous cells. 

In the beginning of this year, I joined a small group focused on healing that my friend Janet initiated. I wasn't sure why I said "yes" to it at the time, because I didn't see myself as  a "healer,"  but the reason I'm a part of the group is clearer now that I'm on this adventure. The main image in the group is of those of us in the group as candles, circling and growing closer to God's flame, becoming more able to allow God's love and healing to flow through us--to move closer to the source of life and healing, and remove the barriers that allow it to move through us, for our own healing, and for others. 

As I start radiation and chemo, I want this to be the main image I have for what the treatment is contributing to. I image the heat and power of the radiation and chemo working in service of that fundamental flame of healing, melting away what gets in the way of life and healing flowing freely through me--cancerous cells, and also fears, unhelpful ways of thinking and acting, cancers in the world that I contribute to, like poverty, racism, and climate change--and mostly opening me up more completely to reflecting the power of God's love. 

I still want to take breaks from moving closer to this flame--times of standing under cleansing, soothing waterfalls, as you've been helping me do int he past weeks. I want to continue to feel the ways water, natural beauty, and connections with you cleanse and wash away tumors and other extra clutter. 

Each time before I do radiation, I'm planning to do a little communion-like ritual, where I eat a prune and remind myself of the intention for God's love to burn and poop away all that separates me from love. In my work, I'm often listening in organizations and communities for what is being born and what is dying, including which habits would be good to help die, to make space for new life. Now I want to pay attention in that way to my own body and spirit, welcoming dying and letting go of what needs to go, and cultivating new life within me. I want to notice and follow more clearly the energies inside me that lead to life, death. 

How much time? What kind of time? 

The ancient Greeks had two words for time, chronos and kairos. Chronos refers to chronological or sequential time, and kairos signifies a time lapse, a moment of indeterminate time in which everything happens. In a Biblical context, kairos can also mean "the appointed time in the purpose of God", the time when God acts. (Wikipedia) Kairos is the "fullness of time," God’s time zone. Kairos time conveys notions of unboundness, of fluidity, of God’s purposes intersecting and overruling this finite world of chronological time.  (www.gci.org/gospel/time)

In kairos, the difference between 3 months, 18 months, and 1,000 months might not be that great, but how fully we are living in this moment, and how fully we are living out our purpose for this moment is everything. I definitely want to live for many years, but more that that, I want to live with a foot always in kairos time. To me, the foundation of this is cultivating intimacy with God. 

From the start of this health adventure, I said I wanted this adventure to cultivate Intimacy with God. What does that mean? I know it is hard to relate to for many people, including me much of the time. I really appreciate the generosity of spirit those of you who don't think about the world in this way have offered to me as you seek to understand and support me, even though I am more religiously oriented than many of my friends. Intimacy with love is a close translation for me, but the "God" part does have additional meaning to me too. Thank you for doing your own translations to have it be meaningful for you. 

One way I've started to understand what is possible in intimacy with God is through intimacy in some particular relationships in my life. I know I have just dabbled in this intimacy. Now I want to dive deeply into it. 

Before Jenny and I got married, we talked about how we wouldn't have any loop holes in our marriage--that we were fully committed to growing together in marriage for all of our lives, no matter what. I believed Jenny at the time, but I didn't fully understand the depth of her unconditional, committed, loyal, and expansive love for me. There has never been a moment in the past 17 years when I have doubted the presence and commitment of Jenny's love and support. This experience has helped me imagine and experience a more universal unconditional love that I can trust and lean into at anytime, not just in my relationship with Jenny, trusting the reality and accessibility of this quality inside myself, in others around me, and in the universe as a whole. 

Since my diagnosis, I've found an intimacy with both pain and awe through my friend, Janet, that I didn't know was possible. I feel Janet so fully with me in both what is scary, and also in noticing and receiving the amazing gifts being showered upon me. Janet helps me see and name the sacred gifts that keep showing up every day, and we savor them together, listening for where they are leading. Knowing this with Janet has helped me see and trust this wisdom and presence that are always available, even when I'm not with Janet, trusting more that there is an inward teacher and a way these gifts are being orchestrated in the universe, even when I'm not paying attention. 

My sister, Christy, was here visiting from England the past 2 weeks. As she would massage my feet, I would feel how deeply we belong to each other, knowing how much she loves and is committed to my children, to Jenny, and me. Knowing this belonging together with Christy has helped me breathe in more of the ways I belong with God, knowing how interconnected and committed it is possible to be. 

My Mom, for many years, sacrificially did what was needed to be done for our family, as my father was sick for many years, and she found joy and renewal on the other side of this sacrifice. Seeing her example, I trust more that sacrificial service can lead into joy, and know that deep transformation is a gift God offers all of us. 

Because of the ways my friend, Janne, powerfully and happily mobilized financial support for my family in the past weeks, I more fully trust that the power to change the world in loving support is available in community, even when Janne isn't around. Even though Janne doesn't think about this in terms of God, I don't think that diminishes the universe-changing impact of her generous way of being. 

There are many more examples of relationships that have opened up possibilities for new kinds of intimacy with God. I look forward to letting my imagination, emotions, body, and mind see, feel, and learn from these aspects of the universe. 

I've started to read Teresa of Avila's book, The Interior Castle, as another way of learning more about different kinds of intimacy with God. There are a coupe rooms in the castle I've visited for the first time this month, and so many rooms that I haven't visited yet! 

Your companionship through this process is more valuable than I can ever express--your messages, your meals, your errands, your prayers, your love for me and my family lift me up many times a day. I look forward to the next steps with you. 

Journal entry by Jenny Larson

Hi all,

We had a week with just one few doctor visit and time to rest, plus lots of family visiting. We've enjoyed spending time with Christy, Michael's sister, here from England with her husband, Harry, and sweet kids, Michah (4) and Alma (1) -- plus Michael's mom, sister Sharon and her husband were here for a few days from Missouri. Christy's family heads back home tomorrow. 

Our family spent last night in a yurt (little round cabin) at Afton State Park, a reservation we'd made long before all this, for time when the kids were off school. It was heated with a wood stove and we didn't stoke it overnight -- it was pretty brisk this morning with outside temperatures around freezing. The woods were gorgeous, we had a long hike, and Christy and family joined us for part of the afternoon. It was good for our family to spend some time in one of our favorite places. 

I'm posting a few photos from our time at the park, including one of Isaiah cooking our food over the fire. When we camp, our usual is to cook veggies wrapped in foil in the fire -- this was the first time Isaiah did all the cooking himself. He did a great job! 

Micheal had his stitches on his head out on Wednesday. He and I walked to the appointment, almost 5 miles round trip on a beautiful fall day. We stopped to play a toss the beanbag game near the hospital (see photos). Radiation and chemo start on Monday. He'll have radiation every weekday for 6 weeks and will be taking a chemo pill every night during that same time. Thanks for your continued prayers and love.

love,
Jenny

Journal entry by Michael Bischoff

Friends, 
I can't come close to expressing the gratitude I feel for you.

Last Thursday, my friend Janne posted an online request for contributions to help with our health costs. Receiving these gifts and messages has moved me as much as anything in my life. Every time I have looked at the updates, I cry as I feel the connection and abundance that is so present. Thank you, thank you, thank you. This allows me and my family to financially relax and focus on healing. 

Last Saturday, my friend Emily hosted a talent show and prayer service in support of this healing process.
  • My nephews sang "How Can I Keep From Singing" and I felt the brightness of their spirits wash over all of us
  • My two best friends from college sang "Sadly Beautiful" and I saw stands of love and friendship that have opened and sustained me for 25 years
  • My family walked down a human waterfall and received love from so many of you, soaking up abundance
  • My friend Nora sang  "Keys to the Kingdom" and I savored the ways the kingdom was fully open to us in that moment
  • My daughter, Grace, played her clarinet with more confidence and grace than I've ever seen her do anything. I felt so proud.
  • My son, Isaiah, joyfully did the unexpected, drinking water while wearing a full body green suit
  • As we sang "love prepare me to be a sanctuary," my family was surrounded by so many of you, and I felt the ways we were all being prepared to more fully be  vehicles for love and service. 
Many times I have felt embarrassed and unsettled by the privilege and abundance being showered on me and my family. I so much want everyone to experience this level of community support, and I'm painfully aware that many don't. I want part of the purpose of my life now to be inviting this depth of community support in more places, not just when a cancerous brain tumor shocks us. I have been reminded many times in the past two weeks that it is possible to live in this depth of love and generosity at other times, with the help and grace of others. 
 
Despite my discomfort, it has been made clear to me many times recently that my main job now is to fully receive and savor these gifts. Most of my life, I have been much more comfortable being useful and contributing to others than I have been receiving from others. I have the opportunity to be frail, dependent, and broken open, and to learn new kinds of openness and giving in that weakness. 

My friend Janet wrote a poem that captures my understanding of what I'm called to be in this time. It isn't where I am at all the time, but I think my main job is to keep returning in this direction.

A pantoum called Remarkable Michael
by Janet Hagberg

Michael is God’s “thin place”
Fully embraced by love
Glimpses of the Eternal
Fear yields to peace

Fully embraced by love
This love is present tense
Fear yields to peace
All else fades away

This love is present tense
Glimpses of the Eternal
All else fades away
Michael is God’s “thin place”

**
Next Monday I start radiation and chemo. I ask for your help and partnership in living into this poem on that journey. Thank you so much for being on this journey with me, dear friends. 

Journal entry by Michael Bischoff

I have felt mixed about how much detail to tell you all about the medical diagnosis and details. I want to be open and honest about it, and I also want to focus on savoring the powerful love and support that I feelin the present moment, and not get lost in a swirl of medical details and possibilities.

My dear friend Janet has suggested three primary things I can focus on: grieve the losses, deal with what is, and work on wonder.

Grieve the losses:

  • he biopsy from the surgery last week could've shown that the tumor was benign and that the surgery was probably all the treatment needed. It didn't. I grieve this lost possibility. Instead, the bioposy found an especially aggressive kind of cancer, called glioblastoma. It tends to spread quickly, and needs radiation, chemo, and maybe more to stop it. My primary doctor, who I love, encourages us not to dwell too literally on the prognosis stats, because I'm younger and healthier than the average patient, and because treatments keep improving. The medical information about it is pretty overwhelming, though. I don't want to deny how life-threatening the diagnosis is. 
  • I grieve the loss of the kind of career I've had, which has been very important to my creativity, connection, and contributions in the world. I don't think my work in the world is near done, but it has changed radically.
  •  grieve the loss of being a healthy, very present, reliable father to Isaiah and Grace. Whenever I take off in an airplane, my primary prayer is that I live a long time so I can be a great dadto them. I still long deeply for that.
  • I grieve the loss of being the kind of stable, dependable, providing, solid husband to Jenny. I'm more in love with Jenny than ever. I know I won't be able to support and be present with her in all the ways I want to.
  • I want to make space for the sadness, crying, anger, and exhaustion that comes with these losses, and others.

Deal with what is:

  • I've been grateful that the recommended medical next steps have been very clear. The first stepwas surgery to take out as much of the tumor as possible. That surgery went remarkably well, and doesn't appear to have caused any brain damage (which was quite possible). I seem to be healing from it much quicker than expected.
  • The next step of treatment also seems clear--radiation and chemo, starting on October 19. I'lldo radiation 5 days/week for 6 weeks, and take a chemo pill every night before bed. I'll probably lose some hair, be more tired, and maybe have some other side effects from this time, but it might not be too bad. After this round of treatment, the doctors will reassess to see what is next.
  • Another part of what is right now is that I still have pretty much full functioning, physically, mentally, and emotionally. I don't take this for granted at all, and want to deeply savor it.
  • There are lots of practical things to deal with too, and many of you have been super supportive in many ways. One practical goal I have is gaining weight, to get ready for the treatment. Thanks to all of you who have been bringing over wonderful food. My amazing friend, Janne, also set up an online fundraiser to contribute to my family's expenses this fall. Feeling this support deeply moves me and helps me relax.

Work on Wonder:
I don't want to jump over anything from the first two steps (grieving and dealing with what is), but I want to place my focus on wonder and gratitude--and I want to ask for your help with noticing and savoring this. My friend Paul talked recently about how tangible it feels to have many people cheering for you, loving you, and praying for you. The feeling of being upheld by all of you in the past couple weeks, and held by love itself has been the most powerful, moving experience of my life. I believe in the healing power of community and of love as much as anything in the universe. There are countless examples of the ways I've received this power in the past weeks. Here are a few examples:

  • My wife, Jenny, has received and lived from an amazing strength and peace in this time, beyond what I think she knew she was capable of. It feels like a direct gift from God.
  • My primary care doctor, Peter, just became my doctor a couple weeks ago. The degree to which he has been present, proactively knitting information from different doctors together, and open-hearted with me and Jenny has let me trust and accept the care I'm being given.
  • ·My friend Janet has been more intimately and spiritually with me in all the interior aspects of this experience than I knew was humanely possible.
  • ·My sister, Christy, and her family came from England last week. When Christy massages my feet and I feel how much we love each other, I feel waves of waterfalls cleansing me.
  • · The tumor has clarified how much I love and am loved by many people. For instance, before I went into surgery, I saw how much my college friend Scott opened me up to life through his friendship.  After the surgery, I felt more deeply how much my brother-in-law, Mark, and sister-in-law, Jean love and support my kids, and how much that means to me.
  • My friend, Emily, how has healed deeply from cancer, is showering me with healing energy and support along my path.
  • I hesitate to list these examples, because there are so many more.

 In addition to the love and support I have felt in specific relationships, I have strongly felt a weaving together of different strands of love, of an orchestration and harmony of different aspects of care and healing. I'm happy calling this intimacy with God, but I'm also happy calling it other things. Sometimes it seems like God is showing off, or showing a sense of humor. That a close spiritual friend and his partner, a nurse, were planning to move into our duplex the day after my surgery, feels like more than a coincidence. The warm feeling I had yesterday, like I was surrounded in a cocoon of healing energy from Jesus, felt purposefully designed for me. I have felt a sense of spiritual connection other times in my life, but I have never felt so much a part of a larger orchestration that seemed to change not only me but the world around me. I don't understand this, but I want to keep paying attention to it and savoring it. I have lived a lot of my life feeling shy and uptight--afraid to express or trust love. I've lived a lot of my life in my head, abstractly. I'm grateful for the ways this experience is pushing me more fully into relationships, more fully into life.

We're all going to die sometime. How long I live isn't the most important thing to me. Living as fully as possible in the reality of love in every moment is what is most important to me. I don't have the power to do this on my own. Some days, like when I met with the oncologist a couple days ago, I get lost in fear, feeling overwhelmed, and anticipating what might be. I ask for your repeated help and companionship in returning to the present tense of what connects us and moves us right now, noticing, with wonder, what is unfolding. I pray and trust that this unfolding is also healing for others, for other cancers on the planet and society. I know my brain is one part of who I am, and I want to support its healing. But I feel my identity is more in the connections between us, and the power that weaves us together. The Mississippi River Gorge in Minneapolis is also who I am, as are the leaves falling off the trees, and in the water flowing over Minnehaha creek, washing away tumors. I look forward to finding new ways to be together in these places and others.

Tomorrow we're having a gathering to celebrate, grieve, savor, and notice what is happening. There will be some silly talents, and some prayerful reflections. I'd love to see you there. There will also be many other ways to be a part of this journey together. Thank you so much for being with us.

 

Journal entry by Janne Flisrand

This one isn't for everyone, but if it's for you, please step up! 

A week ago or so, I was talking to my dad, rearranging family plans to help Michael and Jenny out with something. After hearing why I was rearranging and asking about how Michael was doing, the next thing my dad asked was, "Do they have good insurance?" 

I didn't know the answer, for sure, and the question had crossed my mind, too. Plus, I'm self-employed, and I know I don't get paid sick days or paid time off to care for sick loved ones. No matter the insurance answer, I knew that was going to be tough for Jenny and Michael. 

Not that much later, I learned more when they asked me for another kind of help. Their health insurance is good (although there may be surprises that arise) BUT it has a high $7,000 deductible. And there's the bit about no income. Together, it's a bit anxiety-inducing - on top of the BIG anxiety inducing brain tumor cancer thing. Anything we can do to let Michael and Jenny focus on the important stuff (i.e. one another, their kids, healing, waterfalls) is welcome.

I've set up a donation site to help the Bischoff-Larson's with the financial hurdles they're facing. You can donate at https://www.youcaring.com/bischoffMRI The page is called "The Biscoff MRI: Michael's Reinvestment Initiative (thanks to Liz Dailey for helping come up with the name.) The funds are all about paying for those MRI co-pays and tiding them over a couple months of no/low income until it's clearer what the future brings. 

What you can do:
  1. Donate, if you're able, what you're able.
  2. Ask others to donate, whether you can donate or not. Share it on Facebook, e-mail it to a couple mutual friends, whatever. 
  3. Send the whole family your prayers, poems, and waterfall energies from far away, or join them tomorrow at 3:30-5:00 at Faith Mennonite Church, 2720 E 22nd St, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55406 to See What Love Can Do in person.
And, thanks in advance for doing whatever it is you can do. There are lots of hands already helping, and I know Jenny and Michael are noticing, feeling loved, and feeling supported. Carry on! 
-Janne



Journal entry by Jenny Larson

Just a quick update. It's been a long day and it's about bedtime for me. We visited the neuro oncologist today, Dr. Trusheim at Abbott. It was an appointment full of lots of information. A bit overwhelming. Michael will start radiation and chemo as soon as his surgery wound is healed enough, probably in the next week or two. He'll do both at the same time. The chemo is a pill variety he'll take a bedtime. Apparently people tolerate it pretty well, so that's good news. We have a visit with the radiation folks tomorrow -- not to start it yet, but find out a bit more. We will update you tomorrow.

We continue to be buoyed by each other and all of you. We're feeling your love.

We hope to see many of you on Saturday at Michael's "Let's see what love can do" event. There's more info if you go to older journal entries on this site. It's 3:30- 5pm at Faith Mennonite Church in Minneapolis, 2700 E. 22nd Street. I know it's a busy fall Saturday, so enjoy the day wherever you are. We'd love to see you. 

Here's the Facebook event about it too: https://www.facebook.com/events/1473337266307951/
Love,
Jenny














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
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!!

SVG_Icons_Back_To_Top
Top