Meet Kathleen O’Keefe-Kanavos
THRIVING AFTER SURVIVING CANCERLAND:
Putting Our World Back Together Again
NONFICTION FIRST-PERSON NARRATIVE—CANCER/SELF-HELP
118,923 WORDS /24 CHAPTERS /4 APPENDIXES / Additional Mind-Body Reading
By Kathleen O’Keefe-Kanavos
Author of SURVIVING CANCERLAND: The Psychic Aspects of Healing
SURVIVING RECURRENCE IN CANCERLAND: The Dream World and Healing
Cape Women Online Magazine contributor and Q&A columnist
Connecting For Women contributor
Two-time Breast Cancer Survivor
R.A. BLOCH CANCER FOUNDATION Phone Counselor
WE CAN Breast Cancer Mentor
Twice a young woman has survived her Wonderland journey of seeking a cancer cure by challenging medical authority with information from the psychic realm. Now she summons the courage to put her shattered life back together again and uses everything available in this world and the next to focus on a fulfilling future. The healing power of humor, prayer, and spirit teach her an important lesson: “Take care of your spirit and it will take care of you.”
ABOUT THE COVER
As I searched for a suitable book cover, this picture jumped out at me. It seemed to exemplify everything in THRIVING AFTER SURVIVING CANCERLAND.
What is Cancerland? Think of it as the intellectual, emotional, and psychic amusement park of cancer treatment where every ride, game, and attraction demonstrates a different aspect of humanity’s complexities and individualism during treatment. Cancerland provides multiple explanations of the way things are in the physical, spiritual, psychic, and dream world of crisis.
In this blend of reality, fantasy, and science, I use the allegory of Alice’s travels to make the crucial parts of my cancer survival more accessible and less frightening to the reader who may still be in treatment.
Cancer treatment can be devastating. And just when I thought the worst was over, I was faced with the task of putting my shattered life back together again. My life-altering crisis changed me, forever. Trying to go back to my previous life was as difficult as trying to return to grade school. Just as my thoughts and emotions had changed, my body had also changed. Once my therapies were finished, I completed a metamorphosis that left me staring at a reflection in the mirror that was alien to me. My old life, body, thoughts, and clothing no longer fit this new me. My sense of self had changed.
I never intended to write my books. They were the unplanned result of an unwanted need. I needed the information in my journals for my second battle with breast cancer. My residual “chemo brain” had robbed me of much of my memory concerning important survival facts contained in my notes. I wrote more diaries during my second battle in case I needed them, later. (Life is full of surprises.) Then, after ten years of treatment and fighting for my life, I had to become a normal human being again and not see myself as a “forever patient.” Where would I start? How could I find the dropped thread and continue to weave the rug of my life? Those years as a patient are a part of my tapestry that is never to be forgotten but also not to be dwelled upon. I looked for that dropped thread by searching within myself and found that my inner selves had never let go of it. In order to effectively battle illness, we must get in touch with our inner selves and work together toward the goal of survival by using everything available to us. By searching within through dreams, meditation, or prayer, we will find our own set of answers to any challenge.
I realized that my journals also contained information on how to move forward in life after any crisis, not just the battle against cancer. From those notes came something truly crucial for people and their loved ones starting their recovery from disease on any level. I turned my scribbled notes into the lifesaving lessons shared in this book.
The need for this book was brought to light by the many requests I received from patients and friends I mentored. The basic question they all asked was simple and direct: “Now what?” I wanted to offer women who had completed their treatments some hard-won insights and survival information based on my experience as a two-time breast cancer survivor who is now thriving.
What I seek to present by writing this book is knowledge—of risk factors, screening tools, and follow-up treatments that are essential to remaining healthy and thriving after treatment. My goal is to put one’s mind at ease during this process of emotional and physical healing. Each small step made in this direction is a giant step toward putting our lives back together. Knowledge provides tremendous power, both to those who treat this disease, and those who suffer from it. We are much more than the sum of our cancer experiences. We overcame a life- threatening crisis. That is no small feat.
C H A P T E R 1
“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”
“What’s my fear?” The reflection in the bathroom mirror stared back at me with an intensity that matched my voice.
Music from my Beatles CD drifted in from the adjoining bedroom while sunlight from the skylight glinted off the mirror’s beveled edges. The result was a prism of colors that danced to the music on my bathrobe and on wallpaper damp with the smell of shower gel. That perfect beginning to a glorious morning came to an abrupt halt when I answered my own question with a single action.
I opened my Hello Kitty bathrobe. The smiling flower-shaped cat faces gazed with me at the progress of my metamorphosis, starting with the battle scars. Redness from the double mastectomy had begun to fade but the numbness was still there. As my cream-drenched hands slid over my new body parts, I felt like I was fondling a stranger. The saline implants were as full as my stretched skin would permit. I continued to rub the moisturizing cream over the two shiny heads on my chest that were my new boobs—the twins. The next operation for new nipples, and tattoos for areolas would complete my transformation. Then each twin would each have an eye in the center of its head. A mythological figure from the Odyssey floated through my mind—Odysseus’s Cyclops. But Cyclops was hairy. “Well, these will be his hairless twin babies.” I gazed at my own hair; the bald spots on my head were finally filling in. After my first battle against cancer, my straight golden-blonde hair had completely fallen out and grew back curly and red. After this second battle, eighty percent of my hair had fallen out in patches. The bald patches were now growing straight blonde hair that was mixed in with what was left of the curly red. Thank goodness there was very little red hair left.
Being the ultimate optimist, I searched for the silver lining to this dark situation. Okay, I think I found it. At least the small scar from the lumpectomy of my first cancer was gone. It was discarded with my right breast tissue and replaced with this new scar that stretched from my armpit to my breast bone. It mirrored the one on the left side of my body. (The silver lining began to fade.)
These were the battle scars from my seven-year fight. The fact that I was staring at them proved that I had won the war, so far, (the lining was glowing again). But then I wondered if I had lost an important battle along the way. I’d heard somewhere that scars were sexy on men, but they certainly didn’t look sexy on me. I rotated to get a better view of my body’s new profile but quickly turned back, and closed my robe. No Playboy Bunny here. Well, at least I didn’t still look like the Borg Queen from Star Trek. My hair was growing back. The four drainage tubes in my chest were gone along with their blood filled plastic drains that hung on the ends and were pinned to my bandages like Christmas Tree balls from Hell. The scene that greeted me the first morning after my double mastectomy was too surreal for words or deep contemplation, and was definitely life imitating sick art with a sense of humor: Dr. Seuss meets The Borg on steroids.
The pain of getting out of the hospital bed for the first time after surgery was excruciating. It took two nurses to help me: one to hold me up and the other to be sure I didn’t snag my snaking hoses on the beeping medical equipment and drag them into the bathroom with me. As I exerted energy after my long sleep, the beeps and tweets responded to my turtle race for the bathroom. I had a mechanical cheering section in my room that increased in frequency and volume as I neared the finish line, and culminated in piercing alarms and whistles when I crossed the threshold and reached the toilet.
Now, I tightened my bathrobe, and headed for my closet. I had a tennis game in an hour—the first in years. Would I even be able to hit the ball over the net? Hell, would anything fall off my body when I tried? The skirt was a bit snug after years of sitting in my closet but the top was loose. Well, if I can’t hold the balls in my pants, I’ll stuff them in my top, I thought and began to search for my tennis shoes.
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- The Psychic Aspects of Healing Breast Cancer | Incredible Healing Journals on SURVIVING CANCERLAND: The Psychic Aspects Of Healing
- Darkest Hour or Defining Moment? on Books
- graviola on Kathleen Interviewed by Dr. Michael Harris
- Kathleen O’Keefe-Kanavos: Prophetic Dreams, Stubborn Doctors and Breast Cancer | on Books
- Darkest Hour or Defining Moment? | Bernie Siegel M.D. on Books
Did You Know…
More than ten million Americans are currently living with or through cancer. Global cancer rates could increase by 50 percent to fifteen million by 2020.
To read and listen to interviews with Kathy, click here!