Book Review: Surviving Cancerland by Kathleen O’Keefe Kanavos

This is a book about two personal journeys. It is the gut wrenching experience of going through breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.  It is also about the maturing of an intuitive – learning the art of listening to your inner voices. And of love of life.


“You’ve got a tumor,” my doctor stated. He might as well have said, “You’ve got cancer and you are going to die.” That is what went through my mind when I was diagnosed with a parathyroid tumor. It is what Ms O’Keefe Kanavos also heard in her mind. In addition to her conscious mind she also heard advice in her dreams. Her inner voices were telling her to act.

On the one hand this book is a detailed journey of what it is like to fight cancer; your lows, fears, struggles, hopes and dreams. She chronicles her chemotherapy and subsequent radiation treatments. Her recollection of key moments make her story touching.

I really like the format of the book. After each story she lists “Survival Keys” – insights she received through the experience from which we can all learn. Here are a few that I particularly like- because I’ve learned them as well:

  • The Circle of Life is a series of learning steps taken through doors of experience
  • In order to live life to its fullest we must embrace death as a friend
  • It’s important to make your own reality by manifesting the positive life in your dreams
  • Movement is life. Exercise ensures movement which ensures life
  • Intuitive gifts may grow stronger in times of crisis
  • Take control of your healing with happiness
  • Learn that you are responsible for yourself. It’s okay to be difficult when necessary for survival
  • Use conventional methods and intuitive guidance. Both can be lifesaving. Cross checking for confirmation gives a level of knowledge that is greater than the sum of the individual parts.

After my successful parathyroid tumor treatment, I was diagnosed with a pituitary tumor in my head. This time I really thought I was going to die. The treatment was more complicated than the simple surgery to remove the parathyroid tumor. Ms O’Keefe Kanavos describes these struggles as life changing events. There are frustrations and anger. Questions arise like “Will I ever be normal again?” to which the answer you must accept is NO. To continue the never ending journey to health requires a positive outlook which is summarized by two statements she made in the book:

  • “Calm down. This is just another bump in the road of Cancerland.”
  • “Let’s bask in the joy of the moment”

The second story of the book is her acceptance that she is an intuitive. Ms O’Keefe Kanavos realized she was a sensitive or an intuitive many years ago. However, her crisis brought out her talents even more. She listened to her voices, dreams and visions as guides in her treatment. At one point during her chemotherapy, she found her confidence. With that she experimented sensing with other people. It is quite fascinating. You may be skeptical about such feats – but it means you need to think outside the box and, as she says, “outside the box can be considered a threat” to your beliefs. It may be time to believe, scientists are discovering evidence of life after death – of spiritual existence outside the body. If it is there after death – it is there during life.

As often found in life, this is not a happy story ending..yet. Another tumor was found in Ms O’Keefe Kanavos. The experiences she describes are riveting, her insights wise and her courage to open up about being an intuitive are revealing. I dearly appreciate one of her final observations. In a twist to a familiar phrase, she states that in the end, “He who dies with the most love wins because you can take love with you.”

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