The Enterprise, Brockton, Mass.
Jun. 17—BROCKTON — Looking back on 68 years worth of life, Michael Bishop has done just about everything.
He’s had a career with the New York City Fire Department. Bishop has played the guitar since he was a teenager and had offers of record deals. He has also been an inventor and amateur archaeologist.
“I’ve had more than a full life,” said Bishop, who is from Brooklyn, New York. “I don’t think I could change it for anything.”
He has lived in Brockton for 15 years and said the city reminds him of Long Island, New York. Bishop likes that the City of Champions has more space and the pace here is slower than in New York.
Brockton was where Bishop lived when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and began hospice treatment now that the disease has spread to his bones.
He said his cancer developed from exposure to dust and debris from Sept. 11, 2001, at the former World Trade Center site in New York City.
Bishop joined the New York City Fire Department at the age of 25 in 1979 and served until age 46, retiring as a lieutenant in 1999.
He worked in firehouses around the city, responded to fires in various types of buildings and made rescues.
“(Firefighting) was the best job in the world,” Bishop said. “It was like an adrenaline rush.”
He followed in the footsteps of his father, Homer Bishop, who was also a New York City firefighter and served as chief, the second highest position in the department. Homer Bishop died at 57 of leukemia.
Bishop has his father’s helmet in his office and his own helmet that he wore when he responded as a volunteer to the former site of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. That helmet has some dust from ground zero still on it and a small American flag attached to it.
At the time of responding on 9/11, Bishop was retired. He and other retired firefighters and volunteers worked at the site for about two weeks.
Bishop said if he was still on the job, he would have been in one of the towers that collapsed.
The next day he began coughing up gray dust from the debris at ground zero.
“At that point I knew it was bad,” he said.
In the past four years, Bishop’s prostate specific antigen levels, a protein produced by normal and malignant cells in the prostate gland, had been increasing but he had no symptoms of prostate cancer, which can include problems urinating, pain and weakness or numbness in the legs or feet, according to the American Cancer Society.
Zero is considered a normal PSA level and above 4 nanograms per milliliter would trigger the need for a biopsy. Bishop said his PSA number got to 10 ng/ml and a biopsy was done on his prostate, and it was found that he had cancer in 2019.
In August 2019, Bishop had surgery on his prostate, which is a treatment for the cancer.
He declined chemotherapy and said he plans to fight the cancer without it.
Since then, cancer has progressed to stage 4 and has metastasized to bones in his body.
In November 2020, Bishop started receiving hospice care through the Brockton Visiting Nurse Association. A nurse visits him at home weekly and checks in on him.
Bishop said his cancer in his prostate developed from his exposure to the dust at the World Trade Center site.
Aerodigestive disorders that affect breathing, talking, swallowing and feeding is the top condition among responders and survivors, according to the World Trade Center Health Program. Cancer is the second, followed by mental health and skeletal, muscular and acute traumatic injuries.
The top types of cancers responders and survivors in the program have had have been related to the skin, prostate, breast, lymphatic system, thyroid, lungs, kidneys, blood and colon, according to the World Trade Center Health Program.
The program was established to provide health care to responders and survivors directly affected by the Sept. 11, 2011, attacks in New York and Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon.
With the New York Fire Department, the program provides physical and mental health services to active and retired department members who responded on 9/11.
Bishop is part of the program and he has a nurse assigned to him from the New York department who checks in with him over the phone.
The main symptom Bishop said he has experienced from the cancer has been tiredness.
“The cancer eventually takes up all of your energy,” he said.
Up until his cancer diagnosis, Bishop said he hasn’t had health issues. Over the years, doctors thought he had various conditions, but upon more testing, those turned out to be negative, he said.
Bishop said he has worked out throughout his life, especially during his firefighting career.
He lifted weights to stay fit and up until a few months ago, he continued to go to the local YMCA for workouts. Bishop said he has had to scale back on exercise about a month ago.
The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund was established to benefit individuals or a representative of a deceased person who was present at the World Trade Center or surrounding area of exposure, the Pentagon crash site and the Shanksville, Pennsylvania, crash site between Sept. 11, 2001, and May 30, 2002, and had since been diagnosed with a 9/11-related illness.
The fund is for first responders, volunteers like Bishop, and people who lived, worked and attended school in the exposure zone, according to the fund’s website.
Bishop said he had registered through the fund and is working with a lawyer to see if he can apply for and receive money from the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.
A Brockton native, Kenneth Feinberg, was appointed special master of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and was charged with overseeing administering the funds.
Since retirement as a firefighter, Bishop started a business with his son that sells training tools to fire and police departments and the military.
One of the tools teaches firefighters to work together to use a jamb and an axe to force open a door.
Another interest Bishop has been able to focus on more since is retirement is music.
Bishop has sung and played music for 30 years. He started with piano at 7 years old and guitar lessons as a teenager and has performed in clubs in Manhattan.
He had gotten several offers for record deals but declined them.
One offer came in 1990 from Atlantic Records, whose representative called him at the firehouse. Bishop said no because at the time he was halfway through his firefighting career, close to becoming lieutenant and had young children.
“It was the best decision I ever made,” Bishop said about choosing firefighting over music.
The genre of music he has performed and written music for is folk rock.
Bishop has a music studio in his home with a keyboard, electronic drum set, speakers and a 16-track recorder. He will play and record different parts of a song and put them all together, so it sounds like Bishop is playing with a full band.
During his retirement, he has written and sold songs to a record company and is paid through a writer’s fee.
Because he wasn’t able to visit clubs in Massachusetts to perform, Bishop held a virtual COVID concert series and posted videos online.
On Friday, Bishop will perform during a Brockton Visiting Nurse Association event at the Thorny Lea Golf Club. That event is for members of the public to have fun and meet members of the hospice care team. There will also be a raffle.
Jason McAvoy, the director of Hospice and Palliative Care, said the organization’s hospice program began in 2018 and that the program has about 45 patients.
The Brockton Visiting Nurse Association also provides in-home nursing care.
Bishop said he has been in the right place at the right time several times, which has led to “out of the box” moments in his life.
An example of that is when he traveled to France in 2004 and discovered stained glass depicting what he says shows locking rods on the Arc of the Covenant. In the Bible, the arc is described as a sacred container that holds the Ten Commandments.
He considers himself spiritual and was raised Catholic, but he doesn’t agree with all of the church’s views.
Bishop said he is ready for death, and his family is bracing for it. He believes that there is life after death.
“It’s a matter of time and you never know,” Bishop said.
Staff writer Mina Corpuz can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow her on Twitter @mlcorpuz.
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