Three-time cancer survivor, dream expert, and author Kathleen O’Keefe-Kanavos knows first hand that dreams can change your life. Her 2014 book, Surviving Cancerland, tells an amazing story of how dreams detected her breast cancer when doctors repeatedly insisted she was healthy.
Incredible as it sounds, O’Keefe-Kanavos’ story isn’t unique. Studies show that more people experience verifiable illness predicting dreams than you might expect.
O’Keefe-Kanavos participated in the 2013-2014 Breast Cancer Warning Dreams Research Project, and an accompanying study published in the 2015 May/June issue of Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing. The peer reviewed study by Dr. Larry Burk, who co-founded the Duke Center for Integrative Medicine, examined the stories of eighteen women from around the world who had vivid dreams warning them about breast cancers that doctors couldn’t see.
Inspired to explore the phenomenon in more detail, O’Keefe-Kavanos is currently working on a book with Dr. Burk. The new work will feature a collection of stories from people with precognitive dreams that identified all sorts of cancers.
The Epoch Times talked to O’Keefe-Kavanos about her incredible dreams and how important it is to pay attention to what our dreams are trying to tell us. She says there is “a world between the realms of waking and sleeping where we can go and get lifesaving information.”
Epoch Times: How did your dreams identify your cancer?
Kathleen O’Keefe-Kanavos: I went in for my yearly check-up. I had the mammogram. I had the blood tests. I had the physical exam. The doctors told me I was healthy and to go home. That night I had what I now call a recurrent nightmare. This was way before I started getting into dreams, way before I started naming the different types of dreams and what they did and how you know about them.
So in my dream all of a sudden my screen froze. It was like time had stood still in the dream world, and a pop-up occurred in the dream. Much like a pop-up on your computer—and just as difficult to get rid of—that pop-up window turned into a door. And through that door walked a Franciscan monk.
This monk walked up to me, dressed in a brown hooded robe, with a rope belt and leather sandals. He said, “Come with me. We have something to tell you.”
He lead me through a doorway, into what I call the room between realms—and this happens in many of the dreams of the women I’ve been interviewing. In that room were other monks.
The Franciscan monk took my hand, and it felt tactile in the dream, and he put it on my breast and said, “Do you feel that?” And I said, “Yes.” And the monk said, “That’s breast cancer. Go back to your doctor and ask for a different set of tests.”
Well, the next morning when I woke up I could remember all of it as though I had just had it. So I got in the car, and I drove back to the Santa Barbara Cancer Institute, and I said to my doctor, “I think something is wrong. I think that everything is not okay with my mammogram and my blood tests. I just have that feeling—that female intuition—I just know that something is wrong.”
And the doctor said, “Kathy, breast cancer doesn’t run in your family. Cancer doesn’t run in your family. You’re healthy as a horse. I’ll give you another mammogram and blood tests, but I can’t feel anything.” And I said, “I can feel something here!” And he said there was nothing there. “I can’t feel a thing. I’m trained. I’m a doctor, I would know.”
So he gave me another mammogram, gave me another blood test, gave me another physical, and got the paperwork that said I was healthy.
That night I had the nightmare again. The monk walks back into the dream with more monks, and says, “You go back to your doctor.”
This happened four times, where a monk walked into my dream and said, “You have breast cancer. Can you feel this? You go back to your doctor!”
The fourth time I started crying when I saw the monk. I started crying in my dream. And I said, “I know why you’re here. My doctor won’t listen. I don’t know what else to do. If I do really have breast cancer, you need to help me because he’s not listening. Otherwise, if I got it, I’m going to die. If you don’t want me to die, help me.”
And this monk reaches into his pocket and pulls out this ratty, little white feather. He handed it to me and said, “This is an angel feather. If you go back to your doctor tomorrow without an appointment, and you fence with him with this feather as though this feather were a sword, you will cut through all his arguments as to why you don’t need any other tests, and you will get the test you need.”
So I grabbed my husband and drove all the way to the Santa Barbara Cancer Institute to see the doctor. I showed up at his doorstep without an appointment.
He took one look at me and said, “Kathy, why are you back?” And I followed him back into his office, and I said, “I know something is wrong. And I need exploratory surgery.” He looked at me like I had just set myself on fire in the middle of his office.
He said, “I can’t do that. It’s against hospital policy, and it’s against my policy. You have to think about complications from anesthesia, infection, all kinds of complications. I can’t do that.”
I remembered the feather from my dream, and I imagined holding it and pointing it at him. I said, “I know something is wrong. I need you to help me. There’s no one else I can go to. If you don’t listen to me, I know there are going to be dire consequences.”
He looked at me and it was as if a vampire had walked into the room and glamoured him, just like you see on TV. He said, “Okay, just a second.” He walked out, made an appointment for me a week later.
I had the surgery and they found that I had a stage two aggressive breast cancer within my system. The pathology report confirmed the dream, so there was no argument. I had all the other paper work that said, you’re healthy, you’re healthy, you’re healthy—the yellow ones that come in the mail.
I got my last healthy mammogram report on my birthday, when my hair was falling out on the walls of the shower because I had just started chemotherapy. They got me chemotherapy as quickly as possible because this cancer was so aggressive. It took me three and a half months to get that pathology report to get that surgery.
Epoch times: Did the doctor understand why the previous tests didn’t pick up your cancer? Why did it take exploratory surgery to finally identify it?
Mrs. O’Keefe-Kanavos: When the pathology report came back, I had to get the chief of everybody—the chief of oncology, chief of radiology, chief of oncological surgery—to look at it so I could go into a second surgery.
When I took all my mammograms with me into the oncological surgeon, and said “Why is this stage two tumor showing up?” He said, “Well, mammograms are only as good as the people who take them and the people who read them. And this section of the Santa Barbara Cancer Institute is the best.”
Well, five years later almost to the date—with those five chiefs and everybody watching me, after having chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery— I had my mammograms read at the Santa Barbara Cancer Institute. That night, I had the horrible nightmare of my spirit guides coming through the pop up window. They were saying, “Come with us we have something to tell you.” And when I walked through the door between realms, they were dressed with white doctors’ coats over their robes.
I thought it was weird, and wondered what they were doing. There was one monk who was holding my mammography results and he motioned for me to come closer. When I did, Poof! All the monks in the room turned into these scary circus clowns with the curly red hair, the big bulbous nose, and the big red shoes, and they were rocking back and forth laughing.
And I said to myself, “Wake up, wake up, this is a nightmare.” But I got it.
I went to my doctors and I said, “I need an MRI.” And they say, “Kathy, you don’t qualify for an MRI, your mammograms are all healthy. It’s not hospital policy to give MRIs when you’ve got healthy mammograms, and healthy blood tests.” And I thought, “This is like a frigging deja vu. Somebody pinch me.”
So I said, “Why are you using mammograms to watch for recurrence when they didn’t work the first time?” And again I got the same runaround answers. I had to literally throw a temper tantrum on his floor in his waiting room.
I said, “If you don’t get me an MRI, I’m going to lie down on your floor in your waiting room with all these people watching. I’m going to kick my feet like a two year old. I’m going to scream and yell until you have to call security to drag me out by my heels, and I’m going to be on my cell phone to channel two news as I’m going out the door.”
I got the MRI— it took me three and a half months to get the results. I was in stage 4 terminal. And the doctors said, “Oh, we just had this big meeting with all the chiefs,” because they were seeing “lawsuit” screaming across the headline. And the chief of oncology said, “I guess mammograms are not your friend.” And I said, “Why would you ever use mammograms to look for recurrence if mammograms didn’t work the first time.”
And he said, “Well, you know, mammograms don’t work for 30 percent of the population of women. And I said, “What about us 30 percent? We don’t count? You can’t get around hospital policy to take care of us?”
The doctors at Santa Barbara wouldn’t do a double mastectomy. They kept saying, “There’s no cancer in the other breast. It’s a healthy breast. Look, we did an MRI, it’s healthy.” But I knew from the dreams, my spirit guides had come to me and said it’s just not showing up in the MRI. So I had to go to New York to see a new set of doctors to get the double mastectomy, and when they did the pathology report on the second breast, it showed the lobular cancer that Elizabeth Edwards had died from at stage 2, and I was now in stage four.
It was in the other breast, which it has a tendency to do. It has a tendency to mirror itself. Much like Alice in Wonderland’s through the looking glass, breast cancer mirrors itself like that. That’s why I named my book, Surviving Cancerland. That was the third time I had a precognitive dream that diagnosed the breast cancer that was validated by pathology reports. The New York doctors called the other doctors and said, “We’ve got her records. We’re reading her work. We’re shocked. What is going on there?”
I’m hoping that I’ve changed hospital policy where if you’re a woman and mammograms did not show breast cancer the first time, you don’t take mammograms anymore, you go straight to MRI, or you use thermography. That’s what I’m pushing for—a third choice for women in the hospital.
Epoch Times: I’ve read that thermography has no radiation and is not painful like mammography can be. As I understand, thermography can detect cancer even years earlier than mammography can.
Mrs. O’Keefe-Kanavos: Yes! I asked the doctors, “Why do we not have thermography available in the hospitals?” Basically, the runaround answer is that we’ve invested so much money in mammograms that we don’t have the funds to give people a choice. So you have to take what you get, or find someplace that does thermography.
Just like with the first cancer I had, the doctors said we only give a broad spectrum chemotherapy for this. But I had heard of a doctor in California who takes a piece of the tumor and bombards it with all the chemotherapies that are available. And you find the one that actually works for you. It’s called tumor cure and treatment typing.
I said, “Test a piece of my tumor,” but my doctors did not want to do it. So I sent it to Dr. Robert Nagourney in California, and he said the only chemotherapy that would work was Adriamycin-Cytoxin.
He actually called my doctor and said, “Has this woman gone through cancer treatment before? Because this is the only one chemotherapy out of the eight that we use that will work, and it’s got to be this one.” And my doctor said, “We don’t really believe in that here.” I said, “I don’t care. That’s the one I want.” I took that chemotherapy and that kind of cancer never came back. When I got cancer the second time, that was a different cancer that was in both breasts. That was lobular.
There are so many things that can be used to help women in hospitals, but because it’s not hospital policy it’s not available to them. And the only way they’re going to know about it is when people who survive tell them.
Epoch Times: You had a type of breast cancer that could not be identified by mammography, and one which resisted treatment from the typical chemotherapy. It sounds like you had a very special case.
Mrs. O’Keefe-Kanavos: Not really. That’s what I’m trying to tell everybody. They say, “Oh, don’t worry about her story because it’s very unusual,” but Dr. Larry Burk’s study shows it’s not. And because I’m a hotline counselor at the R.A. Bloch Cancer Foundation, I talk to women all the time who are told that they were given a broad spectrum chemotherapy. It’s just like you come down with an upper respiratory infection and the doctor gives you a broad spectrum antibiotic, sometimes it works, but on 30 percent of the people it doesn’t work. Well, it’s not a big deal necessarily when it’s antibiotics, then you go in and take a throat culture and you find out exactly which antibiotic is going to work. And you get a new antibiotic that you know is going to work with that throat infection because you cultured it.
That’s what they need to be doing with breast cancer before treatment, because after you’ve taken one chemotherapy, which is slash and burn, your body can’t take another one. And it’s not the cancer that kills you, it’s the treatment. They die from the treatment. Their lungs fill up with fluid and their hearts give out. It’s not the same as the antibiotic.
You need to know before you take that chemotherapy whether or not it’s going to work, and the hospitals don’t do it. They say, “Well, this one works on 80 percent of the people.” Well, it doesn’t matter. Maybe 80 percent can handle it, but that other 20 percent are going to die and that’s not an acceptable figure when you could be using this tumor kill and treatment typing that Dr. Nagourney uses and a lot of other places are starting to use it too. The test is known as chemo sensitivity and resistance assay (CSRA), and it should be available to anyone who has to take chemotherapy. You don’t want to guess with chemo.
Epoch Times: It sounds like the message from your dreams will save more than your own life. So many women could benefit from this information.
Mrs. O’Keefe-Kanavos: Yeah, now that my book is out. No one would publish it until I got to Cypress House Publishing. They were cancer survivors and they saw how important this book was. It’s been an international best seller three times. It won the International Book Award for women’s issues and health, and it’s only been out barely a year.
Epoch Times: We’re very dismissive of dreams in our culture. Are there other cultures that take dreams more seriously?
Mrs. O’Keefe-Kanavos:: Absolutely. Most of the other cultures take dreams much more seriously. In Japan they take dreams very seriously.
If you go to ancient Egypt and ancient Greece, where if someone felt that they had an illness that the doctors could not find or treat, they would actually go to their place of worship and give prayers, light candles and sleep on the floor of where they worshiped in the hopes that they would get spirit guides or guardian angels to come into their dreams to give them guidance. They would then take that dream back to their doctor and work with their doctor to come up with a treatment for whatever was ailing them.
But what we’re finding in modern medicine is that doctors are only interested in what they can see, feel, or measure. The lab reports are measurable and they’re scientific. My book is threatening to the medical community because I’m saying science is a gift from a higher power. You don’t worship the gift, you worship the power. Science only goes so far, but then there’s your higher power which comes in the form of dreams when the science is incorrect.
They need to work together. My goal is that when a patient walks into the doctor’s office and says, “Doctor, I’ve been having these horrible recurrent nightmares.” The doctor doesn’t say, “Take this pill so you won’t have them anymore.” The doctor will say, “Tell me your dream.” Because he will be trained in the universal symbolism of dreams, how to lead the patient to understand what the dream is saying, and how the doctor, the patient, and the dream can work together as an intricate triangle of health.
Answers have been edited for style and clarity.