Between 1996 and 2000 I was a telephone hot line volunteer for an organization that put survivors in touch with people newly diagnosed with cancer. As a volunteer, I provided the newly diagnosed patient with medical information about the physical properties of their disease, but more importantly I talked with them about what they were feeling and answered their questions. I never met any of the people who called, and I only had one conversation with each of them, but I hoped they carried away more than a resource list of medical options.
Many of them moved easily from talking about emotions to talking about their dreams. The sharing of dreams on the cancer hot line became a wonderful healing exercise for the new patients, and it helped me grow in my own ability to work with my dreams and theirs. Often we talked about dreams that conveyed messages that demanded a response. The callers' responses were as varied as the people themselves. Some of them gave me permission to tell others their dreams. Here they are.
Grandma Refused To Give Up On Me
A young woman named Helen had been diagnosed with breast cancer and was undergoing chemotherapy. She had very small breasts, which had previously been "enhanced" with surgical implants. After having problems with the implants, she requested their removal and was left with scar tissue, which was not perfectly smooth. She felt a lump in the scar tissue for several months, but she ignored it, believing that it was part of the scar tissue.
She also began to have "peculiar" dreams that she didn't understand, but later believed to have been about the cancer growing in her body. She ignored those, too.
The summer months brought Helen to her annual vacation spot in Florida, where she began dreaming of her dead grandmother. She ignored those dreams because they made as little sense to her as her other "peculiar" dreams. The dreams were insistent — some of them frightening — but Helen could not, or would not, understand them.
In the midst of her usually enjoyable vacation, Helen contracted a serious case of cellulitis with severe itching and redness on her face — a case that would have sent an ordinary person to the doctor. Not Helen; she returned home and insisted on being her own doctor, her face slowly recovering from the uncomfortable rash.
Grandma Gets Real... Outside of a Dream
A few days later, Helen was walking down the stairs in her home, and just for a second, just out of the corner of her eye was absolutely certain she saw her dead grandmother on the stairs. As Helen's eyes widened in the shock of recognition, her grandmother stuck her leg out straight across Helen's path, tripping her and causing her to fall down the stairs.
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This time Helen was forced to go to the doctor; her face was bruised and swollen, and she feared that her nose had been broken in the fall. There was one thing she could not tell the nurse when asked what had happened: her beloved dead granny had purposely tripped her and caused her to fall down the stairs!
The doctor walked in, looked slightly puzzled and asked, "Have you had a mammogram recently?" Stunned by the question, Helen demanded to know why he would ask such a thing when she had come to him for something quite different. "Because," he replied, "an old woman, I believe somehow associated with you, showed up in my dream last night and said you needed a mammogram."
Getting the Dream's Message Loud & Clear
Now Helen got the message of the dreams she had been shutting out. She told me that she believed her grandmother had passed on a health warning to the doctor — who fortunately paid attention — because Helen had ignored the messages in her own dreams. Her granny may even have tried to send her to a doctor with the unrelated problem of the cellulitis rash, but that hadn't worked. Maybe granny had actually been instrumental in the fall that brought Helen to a doctor who remembered his dreams.
Helen agreed to the mammogram, which revealed that she was in an advanced stage of breast cancer. Subsequent surgery revealed that six lymph nodes were involved. Helen chose to participate in a clinical trial, for which her dreams now no longer rejected had also prepared her. The clinical trial would investigate new healing technologies involving the use of stem cell therapy. Helen's prognosis was hopeful; her subsequent dreams, which she recorded faithfully and worked with daily, predicted full recovery and a cure.
A Dream's Warning: Not To Be Brushed Off
Many cancer patients with whom I talked told me that they never dreamed. They meant, of course, that they had never developed a habit of dream recall. What I found interesting with most of those women was that, although they didn't remember their dreams, something in their subconscious still kicked them awake and made them aware of their health problem. I was convinced that such intuitions often flowed from denied or unremembered dreams.
One such example occurred in 1999 in a workshop I was attending on historic paints held in North Carolina. Somehow the luncheon conversation there turned to dreaming. Several of the restoration specialists were discussing work-related dreams, and then the dream discussion turned to healing dreams.
A woman named Gloria overheard me talking to someone else about dreams. She hesitantly approached me when no one else was around and told me that she admired my ability to discuss illness and dreams with strangers. She wanted to tell me a story, but she said it wasn't about dreams; it was about her illness. She had worked all morning to summon the courage to tell me her story, and she decided that since I had the courage to talk about my dreams, she could muster the courage to talk about her story of discovery.
Gloria had studied art in school, but had put her talent aside to raise a family and provide for several children in the absence of a husband. A second marriage also ended in divorce and, in the difficult period afterward, Gloria decided to take an art class to reclaim some of her talent. She placed her pad in front of her on the first night of the class and, barely hearing the assignment, began to draw ovals with a dot in each. She drew them over and over, the dot always in the same place inside the oval. She went home and pulled out canvas and paints and began painting larger ovals, now looking more like breasts, with the same dot in the same place. She seemed to have little control over the repetitive geometric patterns. She got the message and made an appointment with her doctor.
Gloria completed radiation and chemotherapy; a canvas of ovals and dots had saved her life. She insisted that dreaming had nothing to do with her discovery of her illness, yet she recalled, just barely, a dream involving an art classroom. She had brushed off the message of her dreams, but it returned through her artist's brush. As Robert Moss says, dreams and intuition come from the same source.
Dreaming of Healing: Barnacles On A Whale
Not all dreams lead to physical survival; some lead to spiritual healing before physical death takes place. A young woman who worked with me developed an aggressive lymphatic cancer that invaded her organs. Her upbeat personality and her supportive dreams carried her almost a decade beyond the time when she was expected to die. She had attended the workshop I gave in the New Age bookstore. She said very little in the workshop, but she went home and began to work with the techniques I taught.
When we talked about healing dreams only a year before her death, she shared a short dream that she used in her healing meditations. In the dream, she saw herself scrubbing barnacles off the body of a whale. That was the entire dream but, upon awakening, the dream felt wonderful and cleansing. She decided to tape-record the dream to play back when she drove in her car. She attributed the constant repetition of this small dream to the extension of her life far beyond its predicted end.
She Who Dreams: A Journey into Healing through Dreamwork
by Wanda Easter Burch.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher, New World Library. ©2003. www.newworldlibrary.com
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About the Author
Wanda Easter Burch is a long-term survivor (over 17 years) of breast cancer. She advocates for breast cancer research and gives seminars and workshops on dreams and works closely with support groups, churches, and cancer organizations to teach women about healing practices. Her other work involves historical preservation. Visit her website at www.wandaburch.com.