Michael: Up until the fall of 2015, I had been one of those annoyingly healthy people. I hadn’t broken any bones, and didn’t tend to get colds when the rest of my family did. Almost 20 years earlier, I had fallen in love with my wife, Jenny. We now had two kids, ages 10 and 13, who were each hitting their stride. Jenny and I were both self-employed and had a rhythm of work, family, and play that was satisfying.
Then in September 2015, I started having some new, intense headaches. I went to see a few doctors, who said it was probably a sinus infection or migraines. I saw a neurologist who had me do an MRI scan, just to rule things out. The morning after the MRI, his assistant called me and said to come in as soon as I could and bring my family. To the neurologist’s surprise and mine, the MRI showed a tumor the size of a golf ball in the middle of my brain. I asked him how serious it was and he soberly said, “It doesn’t look good.” Looking back on it now, I think that the neurologist had a hunch that the tumor was a quickly growing kind of cancer called glioblastoma.
The day after I found out about the brain tumor, I started a CaringBridge web page to keep friends updated about our health adventures. Every week since then, I have found writing updates and reflections to be a lifeline for me. Let the adventures continue, deeper into mystery and grace.
Jennifer: Why am I photographing this adventure? My love of photography started when I got my first camera, probably around age eight. It’s one way I make sense out life, a way to find the beauty. When we found out about Michael’s brain tumor, my natural reaction was to get out my camera.
I find that I notice the things in Michael, the nurses and doctors, our family in ways I might not stop to see without a camera. I see community and connectedness, fear, restlessness, love, darkness and light.
Michael Bischoff has facilitated collaboration in Minnesota to build just and sustainable communities for the past 22 years. He is currently experimenting with ways of contributing to community well-being as a brain cancer patient.
Jennifer Larson is a photographer and graphic designer, who works mostly with nonprofits. She is drawn to photographing everyday life, even when that includes brain cancer. Jennifer and Michael live in Minneapolis with their two kids.