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Some dreams change lives.
Other dreams save lives.
Validation is the key.”
NOTE: This chapter is adapted from the book Surviving Cancerland: Intuitive Aspects of Healing. The names of the doctors in Kathleen's story have been modified to respect their privacy.
The year is 1998, and I am in Boston, Massachusetts, with my gynecologist and general practitioner, Dr. Dennis Wagner, who resembles the late actor Gary Cooper. A guided dream from the previous night involving a Franciscan monk has sent me to his office for an examination. This is the first of many medical visits we will have over the next three months.
When Dr. Wagner enters the examining room, the theme song from High Noon plays in my head. “I can’t feel anything on or around your breast, Kathy.”
Torn between relief and concern, I wonder if the tiny spot is absent or if he has missed it?
“Perhaps you felt a fibrous tumor sensitive to your menstrual cycle. Let’s do another mammogram and keep an eye on it. You’re only 43, too young for breast cancer, you know. Go home. I’ll call you with the mammogram and blood test results. And, I’ll see you in six months,” he concludes and snaps my chart shut.
If he isn’t worried about this invisible hard spot, why am I? After all, he’s the doctor, right? But the voices from my dream world refuse to be silent in my waking world and nag my every thought. Go back to your doctor, they keep saying.
My life has always been active and healthy. But three mammograms, three blood tests, three physical exams, three yellow copies of healthy mammogram reports over a three-month period, and three recurrent lucid diagnostic and prophetic dreams with Franciscan monks would send me scurrying back to my doctor. After my final healthy mammography report, I had this dream.
The Franciscan Monks
While enjoying my dream, it suddenly stops, like a frozen computer screen or a TV show put on pause. In the center of my dream a pop-up window appears, much like on a computer. The window expands into a door, and a spirit guide/guardian angel dressed as a Franciscan monk in a long, brown, hooded robe with a knotted-rope belt and leather sandals steps through the Sacred Dream Door. His hood covers his face. “Come with me. We have something to tell you.”
Am I dreaming in a dream, I wonder, but obediently followed him into a room I call the Room Between Realms, a place that is neither of the living nor the dead. It is a parallel universe of consciousness. Waiting for me are two other monk guides. A monk takes my hand, places it on my right breast, and says, “You have cancer right here. Feel it?” I did. “Go back to your doctor tomorrow without an appointment.”
I start to cry and tell him that the doctors won’t listen to me tomorrow any more than they did yesterday. “They just keep giving me the same tests over and over and tell me I’m healthy. If you want me to live, you help me.”
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My guide reaches into his enormous sleeve, pulls something out, and hands me a tiny white feather, no larger than one that escapes from a pillow at night and glides to the bedroom floor.
“Use this feather as a sword to fence within your verbal battles with the doctors, and you will win against scientific facts. You need exploratory surgery. If you present your case to the doctors as though you were an attorney standing before an incredulous judge who dislikes you, you will win,” he says, then turns and walks out of my dream.
The Sacred Dream Door closes behind him, and my previous dream starts back up right where it had stopped, as if someone had taken it off pause.
Time had stood still as the monks from beyond time and space delivered their life-saving message in this esoteric dream-plane.
Reaching Critical Crossroads
Do I believe my doctors or dreams? Should I tell Dr. Wagner about the monk and the feather? My goal is to get help, not a padded cell. But, I returned armed with my feather.
Dr. Wagner looks at me as though I have just set myself on fire. “You want exploratory surgery! I can’t take something out that isn’t there.” My doctor is upset. So am I, but for a different reason. His concern is I’ve overreacted to an “imagined spot.” Mine is I haven’t reacted enough to this damned dreamed spot.
As a doctor, he is armed with tangible, indisputable medical evidence in the form of mammography and blood test results from one of the top medical facilities in the world. I’m armed with an imaginary angel feather from a monk in a dream. Oh, Lord have mercy! Did I really just think that? I want to take my feather and go home now. I’m taking a giant leap of faith here, so dreams and God, please don’t let me down!
I silently pray, then dig into my mental war chest, pull out the tiny angel feather, mentally pinch it between my fingers, and turn to face my medical opponent, who must become an ally. I take careful aim and plead my case. “I know something’s not right. Prove me wrong.”
“At 43 years of age you are too young for breast cancer, and it does not run in your family. I think if anything is there it is just a fibrosis tumor,” he said.
“Who is going to do the surgery? And shouldn’t we have an oncologist present?”
“No, I’ll do the surgery. You do not have cancer.”
“Okay, let’s close her up.”
Dr. Wagner’s voice echoes down a dark tunnel of black, drug-induced dreamland, where I’ve been floating in suspended animation during surgery. I claw my way toward consciousness, light, and sound.
“What is it?” I ask, dragging myself over the precipice of anesthesia.
Eyes above masks fly open as medical personnel stare in disbelief. “Did she just speak?” a voice asks from above my head. I gaze up at someone peering down. Thankfully, the anesthesiologist blocks the overhead light.
“It’s … it’s just what we thought, Kathy—a fibrosis tumor,” Dr. Wagner stammers, still frozen in shock, gloved hands held high, eyes wide as if seeing a ghost.
The overwhelming pain in my breast hits me, causing me to groan.
“Give her more anesthesia … now!” are the last words I hear as I slide back into the dark rabbit hole of anesthesia and resume floating in suspended black nothingness.
The First Cancer Warning Bell Tolls in My Waking Mind
Dr. Wagner pulls the privacy curtain behind him in the recovery cubicle, and my first warning bell rings. The second bell gongs when he takes my hand.
“Pathology didn’t like what they saw when they opened the tumor,” he says.
Panic replaces my nausea. “Is it cancer?”
“Yes, I’m sorry. I’ll refer you to a specialist now.”
So my diagnostic dreams had been right: the tests were wrong.
My surgeon’s words are the first shots fired in an ensuing battle. They are not warnings fired across my bow; they are point-blank into my breast. I glance down at my painful wound and weep.
Down The Rabbit Hole of Cancerland
Thus begins my descent down the dark rabbit hole of Cancerland. Like Alice, I’m falling, falling through a disturbing nightmare with no bottom in sight and little hope of landing softly. Oh, God! I think I’m in big trouble.
My dreams had prepared me for what pathology had just validated. I have cancer! The dreams that drove me crazy also spurred me to action, and I hope saved my life. I focus on that positive thought but cry louder.
Scared out of my mind, I realize how much I need my dreams. Winning this war will require a viable weapon beyond the medical community. Had I not been a squeaky wheel, I’d be dying right now. Hell, I might be dying anyway. What a kick in the pants that would be.
But my dreams had armed me with a powerful feather once. Perhaps the monks have more where that one came from if I need them in the future. If I still have a future. With that thought, I stop crying and slip into an exhausted, dreamless slumber.The dream validation was surgery and a pathology report.
But, this is only the first of many dreams about cancer that came true…
Kat’s Dream Interpretation
A Franciscan monk is a positive symbol of spirituality. Monks are solitary in order to condition and align their mind and body with spirit and God. To dream of a monk may mean the dreamer should separate from worldly distractions and look within for answers through self-examination (a play on words for cancer) to achieve inner balance.
A white feather is a symbol of power, faith, truth, and protection in many dream cultures and is typically seen as a sign from an angel or passed-over loved one. A feather offered as a sword is a spiritual protection to win a battle. In my case the fight was two-fold: win against the doctor’s arguments not to do more testing, and ultimately to win the war against cancer by trusting in spiritual guidance from within.
In ancient Egyptian mythology, the white feather symbolized truth. Upon death, the god Osiris placed the heart of the soul on a golden scale against a white feather. If the soul was lighter than a feather, the soul was admitted into afterlife bliss. On a figurative level, my dream was saying spiritual guidance and truth will overcome all obstacles. In a literal translation, my dream said, You have cancer, and if you fight using truth and spirituality, you will win.
©2018 by Larry Burk and Kathleen O’Keefe-Kanavos.
Publisher: Findhorn Press, an imprint of Inner Traditions Intl.
All Rights Reserved. www.innertraditions.com
Dreams That Can Save Your Life: Early Warning Signs of Cancer and Other Diseases
by Larry Burk, M.D., C.E.H.P., and Kathleen O’Keefe-Kanavos.
Showcasing the important role of dreams and their power to detect and heal illness, Dr. Larry Burk and Kathleen O’Keefe-Kanavos share amazing research and true stories of physical and emotional healings triggered by dreams. The authors explore medical studies and ongoing research on the diagnostic power of precognitive dreams. Alongside these stories of survival and faith, the authors also include an introduction to dream journaling and interpretation, allowing the reader to develop trust in their dreams as a spiritual source of healing and inner guidance.
About the Authors
Kathleen O’Keefe-Kanavos has spent years studying and teaching about dreams. A three-time breast cancer survivor whose premonitory dreams diagnosed her cancer, she credits her survival to conventional treatment combined with her dreams as a diagnostic tool. Kathleen is one of 20 case studies from a paper on precognitive dreams that diagnosed breast cancer recently published in a medical journal.
Larry Burk, M.D., C.E.H.P., President of Healing Imager, PC, specializes in teleradiology, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), hypnosis, and dreamwork. He attended medical school and residency training at the University of Pittsburgh and later trained in acupuncture and hypnosis, becoming a Certified Energy Health Practitioner. He is the author of Let Magic Happen: Adventures in Healing with a Holistic Radiologist.