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Dreams that Can Save Your Life: Getting the Message Might be the Most Important Thing

This article was published in New Dawn 169.

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Have you ever had a dream or nightmare that indicated a health problem which was compelling enough for you to take the message seriously? In our new book Dreams that Can Save Your Life: Early Warning Signs of Cancer and Other Diseases, we suggest you ask two questions to get you started on your quest for more information.

Is the dream about a health concern of my own or someone else’s? Is the dream a warning about a real physical illness or is it a metaphor for an emotional issue in my life?

The inspiration for the book came from dreams warning of breast cancer reported by two close friends of mine. As a holistic radiologist who was one of the original researchers in MRI of the knee and shoulder 30 years ago, I published a scientific paper on ‘Warning Dreams Preceding the Diagnosis of Breast Cancer’ in 2015.

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My co-author Kathleen O’Keefe-Kanavos had breast cancer warning dreams about 20 years ago and was a participant in my study. I will provide background information on dreams and cancer in the first half of this article, and Kat, as friends call her, will provide details about her amazing dream guidance in the second half.

My first friend, a cardiac physiologist-turned-meditation teacher, was awakened by a very vivid dream of being in an operating room having breast cancer surgery by a woman surgeon. The dream was so disturbingly real that she immediately went for a mammogram despite not feeling a lump or having any symptoms.

The radiologist reassured her that the mammogram was normal, but she wouldn’t leave until an ultrasound was performed against the radiologist’s advice. She pointed to where the cancer was in the dream, and the radiologist was shocked to find the cancer. She later had surgery by a woman surgeon who she recognised from the dream.

My second friend, a physician, had two nightmares in one night, first about a serial killer, and then one showing her that she had breast cancer. She also had no symptoms and was told by the radiologist that her mammogram was normal.

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However, she was not reassured and said she knew she had breast cancer from a dream. They looked at the mammogram again together focusing on the area of her breast where the cancer appeared in the dream and found a subtle suspicious lesion that had been overlooked in the first interpretation.

A biopsy showed that it was cancer and the dream had been correct.

After hearing these two experiences, I found out that a third friend had a similar breast cancer dream that unfortunately was dismissed by her physician.

Even though she pointed out that she also had pain in her breast near the sternum, the doctor concluded it was normal breast tissue on physical examination and did not order a mammogram. This was a tragic mistake, as she eventually died of metastatic breast cancer that was not discovered until it was too late.

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That story prompted me to do an international survey involving 18 women whose dreams warned of breast cancer to learn more about this unusual phenomenon which I had never heard of before.

The results of this study showed that the most common characteristics of warning dreams were (in descending order of frequency): a sense of conviction about the importance of the dream; more vivid, real or intense than ordinary dreams; an emotional sense of threat, menace or dread; the use of the specific words breast cancer/tumour; and the sense of physical contact with the breast.

In more than half of the cases, the dreams were shared with consulting doctors and led directly to a diagnosis. Guides sometimes appeared in the dreams in the form of deceased family members, healthcare professionals in white coats, or in the unique case of my co-author Kat, Franciscan monks in hooded robes.

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Shortly after the study was published I started hearing stories about other types of cancer dreams from my friends. One of my high school classmates shared that she had disturbing nightmares about blood in the toilet every night until she finally felt compelled to get a colonoscopy.

A tiny, but aggressive, pea-sized colon cancer was discovered that had already spread to the lymph nodes requiring surgery and chemotherapy. Fortunately, she made a full recovery thanks to the early warning from the dream. If she had waited until there actually was blood in the toilet, it probably would have been too late.

Another friend, a retired MRI technologist, told me about a puzzling dream that was more difficult to interpret. Her dream was about giving birth, but as a post-menopausal woman, she knew that was impossible. She wondered whether it might be just a metaphor for a creative project she was giving birth to as an artist.

However, she asked for a clarifying dream the next night and was taken to see a headstone surrounded by daisies accompanied by a voice that warned she would be pushing up daisies soon if she didn’t act on the previous dream. Despite her having no symptoms, the gynaecologist found an endometrial cancer of the uterus on ultrasound which was cured by a vaginal hysterectomy, symbolically delivering the tumour through the vagina as foreshadowed in the life-saving dream.

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I told many of these stories in a TEDx talk in 2016 that got censored despite being based on my scientific research. However, you can still watch the talk at In the talk, I recommend keeping a dream diary and sharing any warning dreams with your doctor. I’ve been personally working with my dream diary for over 30 years and have had many precognitive dreams that came true including one about my father’s kidney cancer.

In 1987 I had a dream about having a brain tumour diagnosed on a CT scan which shocked everyone because I looked so healthy. I recorded the dream during a rare visit by my parents who lived in a different city. A week later my father was diagnosed with a kidney tumour on a CT scan, and we were all shocked because he seemed so healthy.

I realised that I must have intuitively sensed the presence of the tumour during their visit and translated it into a dream about myself, as I am named as a junior after my dad. The kidney has some of the same anatomic structures as the brain with a cortex and medulla, and it was located on the same side of the body.

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Now if I have a health-related dream, I always ask for a clarifying dream as to whether it is about me or someone else like my friend did to clarify whether her giving birth dream was about a real physical illness or a metaphor. I recommend you do the same and start keeping your dream diary today. My co-author Kat will next share her remarkable dream story with you and some important tips about remembering and interpreting your own dreams.

My name is Kathleen O’Keefe-Kanavos, co-author and one of Dr Larry Burk’s research patients. I am a three-time breast cancer survivor whose dreams diagnosed my cancers all three times when the medical community and the tests on which they relied missed it.

My guided dreams with Franciscan Monks as spirit guides/guardian angels caught the attention of Dr Burk, along with the attention of the Dr Oz Show (‘The 6th Sense: Shocking Premonitions’), and George Noory’s Coast to Coast Radio Show on which Dr Burk and I were both guests. The monks were a big hit to the audience because they were incredibly entertaining with their feather, but to me, they were life-savers.

The year is 1998, in Boston, Massachusetts. A guided dream from the previous night involving a Franciscan monk has sent me scurrying to my doctor’s office for an examination. This is the first of many medical visits we will have over the next three months.

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When Dr Wagner enters the examining room the theme song from ‘High Noon’ plays in my head because he resembles the late actor Gary Cooper. “I can’t feel anything on or around your breast, Kat. Perhaps you felt a fibrous tumour 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 stern Franciscan monks would send me scurrying back to my doctor many times. After my final healthy mammography report, I had this life-changing and life-saving dream lead by Franciscan monks.

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While enjoying my dream, it suddenly stops, like a frozen computer screen or a TV show put on pause. In the centre of my dream a pop-up window appears, also like on a computer.

Lucid dreams

The window expands into a door, and a spirit guide/guardian angel dressed as a Franciscan monk in a long, brown, hooded robe complete with a knotted-rope belt, leather sandals, and a raised hood hiding his face steps through the Sacred Dream Door. It looked like St. Francis of Assisi has just graced my dream. This dream has happened before. “Come with me. We have something to tell you,” he says and leads me through the dream door.

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 monks, one of whom 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 and ask for a different set of tests.”

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I start to cry in the dream and tell the monk that the doctors won’t listen to me tomorrow any more than they did yesterday, or at any of the other appointments over the past three months. “They just keep giving me the same tests over and over and tell me I’m healthy and to go home. If I really do have breast cancer and you want me to live, help me.”

The monk reaches into his enormous sleeve, pulls out a white feather no larger than one that escapes from a pillow at night and glides to the bedroom floor, and hands it to me.

“Use this feather as a sword to verbally fence with your doctor, and you will win against his arguments and scientific facts. You need exploratory surgery. If you present your case to the doctor 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.

As the Sacred Dream Door closes behind him, my previous dream begins again where it had stopped, as if someone had taken it off pause. Time had stood still while the monks from beyond time and space delivered their life-saving message on the esoteric dream-plane.

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There is more dream detail in the book, but the dream is proved right with pathology reports that state I have stage 2 aggressive fast-growing breast cancer with one affected lymph node. If I had been given an MRI three months earlier my treatment might not have involved multiple surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

This is a perfect example of how a dream can be used for the early detection of illness.

Dream journaling is important to our waking world. One thing that made the dreamers in Dr Larry Burk’s Research Group and subsequently the dreamers in the book so successful in using dreams to guide and save their lives was the fact that they journaled. This allowed them to return to their dream journal and track their dreams, and progress from dream guidance.

Our dreams may be repeated to us in different ways in order to be better understood. We have recurrent dreams until we understand a dream’s message. By using signs, symbols, a guardian angel, deceased loved one, or a voice, our dream may give us the same message many different ways until we understand it. Journaling can help connect the dots, so the message jumps out at us often creating an Aha-moment.

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If you are struggling to remember your dreams, the seven-letter acronym SO DREAM may help.

S = Set Your Intention. This is the dream part of the Law of Attraction. A simple request like “Tonight when I dream I will remember it and it will be about .” You fill in the blank.

Write your intention on a piece of paper and place it under your pillow to sleep-on-it, a play on words that holds profound dream meaning. By doing this, you are showing your inner self, through your eyes considered the windows to the soul, what you intend to do: take a dream from the abstract fifth-dimension of sleep and bring it into the concrete third-dimension of life by turning it into written messages.

O = Organise yourself before sleep to better record your dream upon awakening. Put your dream journal, pen, or recording device such as a smartphone (and a flashlight, if necessary) beside your bed. If your dream awakens you, it may be telling you to write down or record relevant information before you forget it. Hunting for pencil and paper may cause you to forget your dream.

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D = Dream! Studies have shown that all living things dream, including you, because you began to dream in the womb at seven months. Dreaming is the first step in training your brain to remember dreams.

R = Remain in your same sleep position when you first awaken to Remember and Record your dream. Moving around may cause your dream to dissipate.

E = Emotion which refers to those parts of the dream, or snippets, that Elicit Emotion that sticks in your mind and creates a physical response, such as rapid breathing or cold sweats.

A = Add to your dream by asking, “What colours, sounds, words, people, animals, plants, signs, and symbols did I see? What names and phrases did I hear?” If more of the dream returns during the day, jot it down on a piece of paper or record it on your phone to add to your journal later. This can help you with dream tracking; keeping track of dreams, messages, and images to see if they come true.

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M = Meaning. What do the small emotional dream parts known as snippets mean to you? Dreams are as individual as the dreamer. Pictures, forms, creatures, colours, lack of colours, people, and phrases are all part of your individual dream language. It is one of many ways we communicate with ourselves.

Finally, give your dream a title, even if it’s The Dream Without a Name, so if part of it returns during the day, you will know where to add it to your journal.

Our dreams often use a play on words to speak to us. This play on words can be in picture form because a picture can be worth a thousand words. “Washing your hands” of a situation, “kicking something around” in the dream are examples that come to mind for working out a solution or ridding yourself of a problem.

So, tonight, dream your intention and remember that everyone dreams, but some dreams save lives.

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The authors’ book Dreams that Can Save Your Life: Early Warning Signs of Cancer and Other Diseases is available from all good bookstores.

© Copyright New Dawn Magazine, Permission granted to freely distribute this article for non-commercial purposes if unedited and copied in full, including this notice. If you appreciated this article, please consider a digital subscription to New Dawn.

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Jake Carter

Jake Carter is a researcher and a prolific writer who has been fascinated by science and the unexplained since childhood. He is always eager to share his findings and insights with the readers of, a website he created in 2013.