Support From Beyond: How My Deceased Loved Ones Helped Me Navigate My Cancer Journey

A survivor of multiple cancers explains how “visits” from deceased friends and loved ones made her feel safe before undergoing treatments.

“It’s OK, he’s here, I can feel him,” I recently told my sister as she sat with me in the OR prep area before my aortic valve replacement. My mind was racing but I couldn’t focus in on exactly what about.

I grabbed my white healing stone that I have had so many ones I love hold and give their focused energy to. I carry that stone with me into my procedures to bolster my own mental strength and fortitude. The stone at the moment had begun to heat up in my palm. “Who’s here?” my sister questioned. I turned to her, slightly choked up, “Grampy.”

Years ago when I went through breast cancer at 25 (a product of radiation treatment 12 years prior to treat Hodgkin’s disease), I had become aware of a sixth sense (no, I couldn’t “see dead people”). At times when I would be most afraid there seemed to be a wave of energy that would come over me that felt like a virtual Xanax. It was as if someone was there holding me and telling me it would be alright.

Accompanied by this, I soon started having dreams that weren’t very dreamlike. They were more like “visits.” First, the night before my mastectomy in 1998, my friend Mike, who after college had taken a tragic fall off a roof while working and passed later that day, came to me.

He was sitting in the corner of my room in an easy chair, his back to me looking as handsome in his black leather jacket and jeans as he did in life. I got up from my bed and walked over to him “Mike?” I asked hesitantly. “Hi Jess. How are you?” I began to cry. “I’m not good. I have breast cancer and they are removing my right breast tomorrow,” I replied. “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. Why don’t we take a walk? I want to show you something,” he said.

I followed him into what looked like a giant castle and realized he was showing me the other side of the veil, where he was. Now he was walking by my side and said, “You have a choice. I have decided to come back,” he started. I looked at him, not truly understanding. “I have one more test to pass and I will be coming back.”

It dawned on me. He meant he was coming back to earth. I woke up from that dream and felt somehow calmed from my desperate anxiety at the looming surgery that was to happen several hours later.

This wasn’t the first time I had a visit from Mike. When he first passed, he appeared at the foot of my bed the evening before his funeral. He said nothing. But as he stood there in shadow, I felt that same calm come over me. He was telling me he was OK — that it was OK.

After my mastectomy I spoke to my dad. He had shared with me briefly (he didn’t like to talk about it) that sometimes he could see things or just know when something was going to happen. Of course, I loved the idea that my dad was psychic but part of me thought of it as wonderful fantastical fiction.

“Dad, Grandma (his mom who passed from breast cancer in 1975) was with me when I went into surgery,” I said. He put his hand on my shoulder as I lay in bed. “I know. I saw her walk behind your gurney as they wheeled you down the hall.” It was a moment between us that I’ll never forget.

I’d always called my Grampy (my mom’s father) my biggest fan. I had a special relationship with him, as he wasn’t such a warm and fuzzy guy, but I seemed to force it out of him from childhood, always climbing all over him and forcing him to play Hungry Hippos and other crazy games with me.

My Grandpa passed in 2007 and his death was tragic yet euphoric for me because I had seen him suffering in his body and when he released himself out of it, I knew he was still around, and he had just left his shell behind. I could feel him from time to time and even smell his scent, but he never came to me in a dream visit like Mike had. I longed to see him and hear him.

My First Visit With Grandpa

In 2016 I had my first colonoscopy. Cancer survivors are shellacked with testing and most of it is at earlier times in life because we have had cancer, so I was just over 40. As they began my anesthesia, I asked the doctor to talk to my face for once instead of talking while he was at my backside. He said, “I’ll do you one better.”

He then made all the nurses and other doctors in the room form a circle around me and say a prayer. It was a beautiful moment and I drifted off. My grandpa appeared and I was elated. I hadn’t seen him in so long. I could feel his hand in mine and his face was relaxed and jubilant. I almost skipped as we walked together through a field, and he told me he was happy. I was so happy too. I could stay there forever.

Suddenly someone started to call to me, and my grandpa started to let go of my hand. My procedure was done and so was my visit. “Noooooooo! Please don’t wake me up yet! I’m not ready to let go!”

I wouldn’t see my grandfather again until 2021.

I Knew it Was Him

“How do you know its him?” my sister asked me while I sat there getting my vital signs checked and waiting to speak to one of the rather arrogant anesthesiologists. “Feel the rock,” I said to her, choking back tears. “Yeah, it’s warm.”

I exhaled. I wasn’t scared in that moment, but I was filled with a clouded anxiety. “Grampy, be with me, please stay with me,” I whispered to myself.

My sister let my father come back in the room to see me before I was wheeled in, and we spoke about all his remedies to keep my mindset in the positive. My dad is and always has been the pro at that.

“You’re going to be fine,” he said. I grabbed my rock tighter in my hand. “I know,” I squeaked, now no longer holding in the tears. “Ready?” the anesthesiologist was back but had taken a lighter tone with me when he realized I didn’t care for his initial communication.

“I need to have my healing rock with me and my other stones,” I worriedly shared as he awkwardly navigated my gurney toward the operating room and banged me into a wall. “OK, I will find a cup to put them in so they don’t get lost,” he replied as we moved along. “No, I need them right next to me.” He said he understood.

“Everything went really well.” I could see through a haze the outline of my sister whispering to me. Where was I? “I’m confused,” I said. “You had the surgery, and everything went well.” My dad was now at my side. I started to cry again. Some people — myself included — just have a lapse in time when they sleep or go through surgery, but I had not that day.

I went into my surgery with my grandpa, and he didn’t let go until I woke up. Now, it may be unfair of me to say he was the only one keeping watch because I know I have an arsenal of strong friends who have died that would do all they can to support me from the other side.

But just knowing that, and more importantly feeling it, gave me that sense of comfort that we all need not just when we are in crisis — that faith, that hope, that love. I love you Grampy. Thanks for supporting me from the other side. I never walked alone.

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