When men dressed like Franciscan monks, wearing sandals and brown hooded robes belted with a rope, appeared in Kathleen O’Keefe-Kanavos’ dreams in 1999 and told her she had breast cancer, she didn’t ignore them although her recent mammogram, Pap smear and blood work had revealed no abnormalities.
Listening to her dreams, or what can better be described as nightmares, she badgered her doctors for different tests but instead was given three more mammograms and four blood tests over a four-month period. Still, no health issues were discovered. Her doctors repeatedly told her to go home, that she was healthy. While most of us might be happy to receive a clean bill of health, it was unsettling to O’Keefe-Kanavos because her nightly nightmares told her otherwise.
“I did want to believe (that I was healthy),” said O’Keefe-Kanavos, who today proudly calls herself a two-time breast cancer survivor. “But my guides were saying, ‘No, don’t even go there.’ ”
Neither her mother nor her mother’s doctor had been as diligent about the mother’s health. Her 80-year-old mother’s diarrhea was so severe that she couldn’t leave home. Her doctor’s solution was prescription drugs. The diarrhea continued for six months, during which time the doctor told her that she was free to change doctors if she didn’t agree with him.
“She was scared to change doctors,” O’Keefe-Kanavos said of her mother, who was like her best friend after growing up an only-child Army brat and changing schools frequently. “That generation worships their doctor.”
Eventually, there was blood in her mother’s stools. Severe colon cancer was detected and six months following surgery, her mother died.
With her mother’s passing having just occurred several months earlier, O’Keefe-Kanavos was determined not to be a sideline player with her own health care. She insisted to her doctor that further examinations were necessary to find her breast cancer.
“Not everyone has that much energy,” said the daughter who wouldn’t give up.
Dreams do come true
O’Keefe-Kanavos convinced her doctor, against his and his hospital’s policy, to perform exploratory surgery, which, to no surprise to O’Keefe-Kanavos, revealed Stage II breast cancer.
“You have to learn how to play the hospital policy game,” she advises. “Hospital policy is not made for the patient. It’s made to make sure the hospital gets their money. You can be complacent. You have to watch out for yourself.”
Four chemo treatments over as many months, 36 radiation treatments and oodles of doses of tamoxifen, which interferes with the activity of estrogen, later, MRIs showed her cancer was in remission after a year.
During that time, she used her dreams to decide which course of treatments to take and, against the wishes of her doctors, took high doses of vitamins to bolster her immune system, drank Kombucha tea to combat the shingles she developed due to the stress, juiced celery, carrots and other vegetables to pull the toxins out of her body and practiced Reiki. But still, that wasn’t enough.
“What I didn’t realize at the time is there are a percentage of women who the drugs stop working for after two years,” she said, “and unfortunately I was one of them.”
Doctors had stopped her periodic MRIs after no cancer was detected. Now back to mammograms, that test revealed no cancer either. Although she had blood tests every six months, she says her hormone levels were never checked. O’Keefe-Kanavos wanted to resume MRIs but was unable to get in to have that test done. Meanwhile, the nightmares with Franciscan monk-like men telling her she had breast cancer returned with a vengeance. She fought even harder for an MRI.
“I went up against the doctors (at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston) and had to be aggressive,” she said. “I said, ‘I am not letting go of your desk. I am going to scream like a two-year-old. You are going to have to call security to drag me out of here.’ ”
Finally they relented and she had an MRI. Almost exactly five years to the day after her initial diagnosis, she received startling news: Stage IV breast cancer. This time, a different chemotherapy was used to combat a different type of cancer and she was treated with radiation as well. While her Boston doctors wanted to do a lumpectomy, she preferred a double mastectomy and ended up going to New York to have the procedure done. Cancer in her other breast was detected following the double mastectomy, validating that O’Keefe-Kanavos had made the right decision.
Listening to your guide
By now a Reiki master, she continued practicing that Japanese technique, soaked in Epsom salt and baking soda, meditated nightly (and sometimes during the day) and drank a half a glass of red wine nightly, which she said counteracted the radiation and stimulated her salivary glands to allow her to eat. She applied aloe vera where she had radiation, crediting that for leaving her with nothing more than a sun burn while other women who didn’t use aloe vera were burned all the way through to their backs.
She credits incorporating a holistic approach into her mainstream treatment for being able to call herself a recurrent cancer survivor today.
“Obviously it was important or my guides would not have told me to do it,” she says of her treatment route. “We all have guides. We all have angels. Every single person on this earth has them. They just don’t listen to them. All you have to do is retrain yourself to remember your dream — open that door, pick up that phone and communicate with the other side.”
She used dream therapy as a treatment modality and worked one-on-one with a spiritual guide.
“The chances of your dream finding cancer once when the medical community has missed it is like winning the lottery,” she said. “To have it happen twice is like winning the lottery back-to-back. It just doesn’t happen.”
But it did to O’Keefe-Kanavos.
“We have a purpose,” she said. “We have a mission and my mine is to do exactly what I’m doing now, spread this information and teach doctors to listen to their patients. My story is a bridge story. It bridges holistic and conventional and that’s OK because there’s more than one way to skin a cancer. You have to find out what’s right for you.”
Kathleen O’Keefe-Kanavos authored three forthcoming books: SURVIVING CANCERLAND: The Psychic Aspects of Healing, SURVIVING RECURRENCE IN CANCERLAND: The Dream World & Healing and THRIVING AFTER SURVIVING CANCERLAND: Putting Our World Back Together Again. For more information, visit Surviving Cancerland.
Kathleen O’Keefe-Kanavos videos:
The Day I Found Out Project