Sunday, September 29, 2013

Halfway to Heaven: The Healing Power of Pets & Who We Are

I had the most incredible nurse by my side when I went through all three of my breast cancer challenges.

This nurse not only brought me food and laid it gently  on my chest to coax me to eat after a particularly bad chemotherapy sessions, but also slept beside me and followed me into the bathroom during my many nightly trips to the toilet.  There, he would cover my cold feet with his warm furry stomach and patiently waited for me to finish.

This amazing feline nurse was my Siamese cat of 27 years. Baby Cakes was the cat who barked and healed.


The first time I saw Baby Cakes he was all alone in a pet shop window. “How much is that white kitty in the window?” I asked. “And may I please hold her?”

Baby buried his face in the bend of my arm and sneezed when the sales girl returned. “That kitten is a he, not a she. He’s some kind of white Siamese, and I’m sorry, but he’s not for sale. He’s sick. We’re returning him to the breeder tomorrow.”

I knew what that meant, and it was not good. Caring for a sick kitten was costly and most breeders were not into spending money. They were into making it.

As she reached for him Baby barked like a dog. “Darn it. He always makes me jump when he does that. Learned it from the dogs in here. Too bad he’s going back. He’s so smart.”

“He’s not going back. I’m taking him home. Help me make this happen.” She did.

That was 27 years, 3 breast cancers, 2 chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and 21 operations ago. We’ve been to hell and back together.

Hell, we’ve been through cancer together!

Baby’s unconditional love was expressed in tweets, purrs, and barks. When my health reports faxed to my home had ALERT typed on all four sides of the paper, Baby would sit in my lap, gaze into my eyes, read my emotions and then reach up and gently caress my face with his paw as if to say, “It’s going to be okay. Don’t worry. You’re not alone. I’m here. Let’s take a nap. We’ll feel better.” And we always did.


Dreams were our escape from cancer reality during treatment because truth be told, it was when I was awake that the nightmare always resumed, those many years ago.    


Last night’s dream was the beginning of today’s nightmare of a different sort because I am cured of cancer, now. I got my report of clean health for the seventh year in a row a few weeks ago. But this prophetic dream was a forewarning that prepared me for the end of my life with Baby Cakes. My nurse, having finished his work, was finally ready to leave me.

Two spirit guides dressed in brown hooded robes with a rope belts stepped through the pop-up in my epic dream. This pop-up is much like a pop-up on your computer, except that it is the doorway to the room-between-realms that is neither of the living nor the dead, but a place where spirit guides can enter dreams with prophetic information.

In the dream, I’m told by my Spirit guides that Baby is dying. I run through my house looking for him. I recognize one of my Inner selves from a previous dream holding him in her arms. “Baby is dying,” she says and holds him out to me. Suddenly my house begins to fall apart and I have to run across the failing floors and jump over the abyss that extends down two floors to take him from her.


“This is Baby’s last day. Carry him with you in your dreams because this is the last night you will have with him,” a hooded guide says on my left.  I hugged him to me and walked though my dream house cradling and singing to my Baby.


The next morning I jumped out of bed, searched for Baby and found him beside the fireplace sleeping on his heated fur pad. He purrs when he sees me and then begins to groan from pain.  My nightmare flowed into my morning and became a reality as Baby, a big eater, refused his favorite jar of baby food.


The dream made sense. My Inner guides, knowing my love for Baby Cakes, had warned me that my home would be losing an important part of its foundation. My Inner self found him first and I was willing to hurl myself over the abyss of death and destruction to hold Baby’s spirit in the dream world one last night. We would always be able to find each other and meet in the dream world. 


 On the way to the vet, I am still in denial of my dream and Baby’s fate. I decide that I will not leave Baby at the vet if they need to run tests.  I’ll bring him back tomorrow.  In 27 years Baby has never been away from home. No, I’ll not leave Baby alone at the vet overnight.

“All of Baby’s organs are failing. He is diabetic and in a ketonicc state. This is not unusual for a 27 year old cat that has tongue cancer.” 
The cancer had been discovered during a routine dental check-up seven years ago and at that time Baby had been given six months to live. The months came and went but Baby stayed. “Baby Cakes is a miracle cat to have survived this long with or without cancer. But now he is in pain and not going to get better. He is shutting down.”

The decision is made.  A shot to quiet him and stop the pain is followed by pink death. Pink nose, Pink month… Synchronicity can be a kick-in-the-pants.

 “He’s halfway to heaven,” the vet said after the first injection.  “You can leave if you want. We’ll take care of him.”

 But I didn’t. I wouldn’t leave my Baby. And my husband wouldn’t leave me. So we sat together and waited as a family. When I was in my darkest hour, Baby never left me. He purred to me. He stroked my face and warmed my feet.

As we held Baby’s paws beneath the security of his towel, I sang his favorite words to the tune of Mary Had a Little Lamb…. “Baby Cakes mouse treats, Outside play, momma daddy love toy….” The words to the song don’t fit or rhyme but they are perfect.  As I Reiki him, his body relaxes and his spirit slips out. He is free. The pain is gone. And so is my Baby. Where did he go? Who will take care of him? Will he be lonely? He’s never been away from home.

My Inner-guidance answers, “Stop torturing yourself. You know all those answers and if you don’t remember them, you’ll find them in your dreams. Believe.”

 When Baby was all the way to heaven, I closed his blue eyes, and kissed his precious white head. Only the pink tips of his ears distinguished him from the towel.
He was still warm as I tucked him in for his fist night ever away from home.

 Now, as I sit to type, I must stop crying to see the keys. My nose clears and his smell rises from my chest where I held him so close on the ride to the vet. I have to wash my clothes. I know I must. But, not yet. Let me sit with him just a little longer, with his smell and fur all over me—a reminder that there are things that survive cancer and death—LOVE.


 The washing machine will wash away the last physical remnants of my Baby Cakes but his memories are marked indelibly in my mind and life. I’ve read that some pets will take on the illness of their loved one. But I know Baby did not die of cancer. He died of old age. Cancer was a part of his life but did not rule his life. Love ruled his life.

And, love cannot be washed away by soap and water. If love is one of the things you can take with you to the other side, I hope Baby remembers me when I get there because I will be thinking of him as I climb the stairway to heaven on my way to find my little nurse.  If you can take love with you to the other side, is it already there waiting, too? I’ll bet it is.


How did my Spirit guides know? Why did they warn me in the dream of impending death?


Perhaps because even they know the importance of our animals—our furry children—in our lives—and the importance of their unconditional love, loyalty and profound healing powers. Animals are gifts from God with healing powers that we are only just beginning to understand. 


Two days later a tiny wooden box and card arrived from the vet. The card contained a poem that touched my heart and explained it all.



Just this side of heaven lies the Rainbow Bridge.

When a pet dies, it goes to the Rainbow Bridge.

It makes friends with other animals and frolics over rolling

hills and peaceful lush meadows of green.

They are as healthy and playful as we remember them in days gone by.


Together, the animals chase and play, but the day comes

when a pet will suddenly stop and look into the distance …

Bright eyes intent, eager body quivering.

Suddenly recognizing you, your pet bounds quickly across the green

fields and into your embrace. You celebrate in joyous reunion.

You will never again be separated.


Happy tears and kisses are warm and plentiful,

Your hands caress the face you missed. You look into the loving eyes of your pet and know that you never really parted. You realize that though out of sight, your love had been remembered.

You cross the rainbow bridge together.



Animals help bring back the innocence and wonder of life and reconnect to inner joy that is “Who We Are.”


As I place the tiny wooden box of ashes above the fireplace, I hear a muffled bark followed by the sound of a belled toy in the hallway, and my sadness lifts as the room fills with love.


Like a typical cat, Baby Cakes must have used the Rainbow Bridge to find his way back home.


This blog is taken from the soon to be released book Baby Cakes: The Cat who Barked and Healed, by Kathleen O’Keefe-Kanavos


Bio: Kathleen O’Keefe-Kanavos, Intuitive Life Coach, survived three breast cancers, wrote SURVIVING CANCERLAND: Intuitive Aspects of Healing (Cypress House, Jan 2014) websites: Surviving Cancerland & Access Your Inner Guide, Hosts Living Well Talk Radio , Cancer Q&A columnist CapeWomenOnlineMagazine, Dream Queen columnist- Wellness Woman 40 & Beyond, Your Dream Intrepretation ,WakeUpWomen; R.A. BLOCH Cancer Foundation Hotline Counselor. Represented by Steve Allen Media