I'm blessed to have spent the whole of my career as a Reiki master in venues one might label "the establishment," such as operating rooms with renowned New York surgeons, and even standing next to Dr. Oz. My book, The Healing Power of Reiki, chronicles some of my personal stories about what it's been like to bring Reiki into the mainstream. In it I describe giving sessions in the locker room of the New York Giants and behind the barricades of Ground Zero after September 11th, but there's one important story that didn't make it into the book. It was still in the process of unfolding when my final manuscript reached its turn-in date, and though I couldn't have imagined it at the time, the tale even now continues to unfold. What you are about to read has taken place over the whole of this year, a journey of hope, courage, strength, and love. With my heart wide open, I share with you the amazing tale of My Reiki Valentine.
When Cassandra and I first met, we weren't thinking about the fact that Reiki is unconditional love. When she walked into my office, it was because she had just been diagnosed with breast cancer and her surgeon, Dr. Sheldon Marc Feldman, Chief of Breast Surgery at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, had sent her to me. From the beginning, Cassandra faced up to her illness with surprising gratitude. You see, she had no symptoms and found out quite by accident that she had cancer. It had been discovered when she was hospitalized for something completely unrelated. The cancer showed up in her blood tests, and before she knew it, Dr. Feldman, whose work is legendary, was performing biopsies. It was discovered that her disease was quite advanced. When he told her about the Reiki option, she readily accepted and we began a journey together that was quite "rich" as she has recently described it; rich in many ways, all of them extraordinary.
Because of the kind of breast cancer she had and the amount of disease present, it was decided by her doctors that she would undergo several rounds of chemotherapy before having surgery; this meant that she would be having eight chemo sessions, each three weeks apart. For all those months, Cassandra came to me on the Wednesday mornings before her Thursday chemotherapy session. She called it, "her one happy appointment."
To say Cassandra and I became friends is an understatement. We were warrior women together! Our conversations before and after sessions during her chemotherapy odyssey were extraordinary—it's incredible to get to know another woman's heart under these circumstances. It was during these talks that I was able to tell her that Reiki is unconditional love from the universe, the power that heals. She connected her own love to this truth. The Reiki sessions we had together were powerful—she saw colors, she felt sensations, she flew, she slept! Her side effects from the chemo were kept at a minimum. But what was truly remarkable from my point of view was that her spirits were always high and she was never distressed.
That is, except for when we got to the weekend before her surgery. With her chemotherapy rounds completed, her surgery was scheduled for Tuesday, February 14th—Valentine’s Day. All the plans were quickly put in place—her brother would fly in from the Midwest to care for her after the surgery and the flight he was able to get so last minute would have him arriving while she was still in the operating room. Her niece was coming to take charge of our personal belongings while we went into the mastectomy with Dr. Feldman, which would be followed immediately by re-constructive surgery performed by Cassandra's plastic surgeon.
On the Friday before the scheduled procedures, Cassandra was called and told that her pre-surgery blood test showed that her blood was too weak from all the chemotherapy and that the surgery might need to be postponed. She called me, very distressed to say the least. I promised her that I would do distance Reiki over the weekend with the intention of building up her blood. The distance healing session I conducted was very powerful for the both of us, and it worked like a charm. When Cassandra went in early on that Monday morning for a final blood test, her blood levels were improved enough for the surgery to go forward. So we had our date with destiny on the day of love.
I remember clearly the moments as the surgery got under way. I was sending Reiki into Cassandra with my hands placed across the top of her head while sitting on a stool next to the anesthesiologist; I was behind the sterile field clipped high above her head so I wouldn't have to see what was going on. I could hear Dr. Feldman quietly pointing out to another surgeon on his team that the size of the tumor was still quite large, in spite of the rounds of chemotherapy. He mentioned how important her next phase—radiation—was going to be. For the rest of the surgery, which was long because of all the plastic surgery that was required following the mastectomy, things went along as usual. It wasn't until the surgery was completely over that I got the scare of my life.
Waking up the patient is the responsibility of the anesthesiologist. Once Cassandra's surgery was over, everyone prepared to transfer her to post-op, but she wasn't waking up. Long minutes were passing without her coming around. The operating room cleared out of all personnel, except for the anesthesiologist, who called for another doctor to assist—and me. The doctors were shaking Cassandra with force, over and over, calling her name, and still she wasn't waking up. Their conversation was terrifying to me: "I didn’t give her very much narcotic; I don't understand this," said the one who had overseen the operation. "Maybe she had a stroke on the table. I think I'll give her a shot of…"
"No, not yet," said the other doctor.
This was the moment in which I found I had overcome my aversion to seeing blood. I marched right through the blood on the floor, took Cassandra's hand, sent Reiki through her palm, and called to her. "Cassandra, come back. The operation is over," I implored. I held my breath. "Raven," she croaked as her eyes started to slowly open. I cried. Cassandra has a memory of this. She remembers that she heard people calling her, but she didn't want to come back, because she felt she still had things to do in that other place where she was. It was my voice, and the love we have for each other, that brought her back. And, of course, the power of the unconditional love that Reiki is. I can't imagine I'll ever have a more heartfelt Valentine's gift—the gift of Cassandra's life continuing on as part of mine!
There were complications involving the radiation treatments, but eventually they were done and Cassandra recently received a clean bill of health from all of her doctors.
Cassandra told me that she was "taken" with Reiki and that she wanted to study it, so we began her Reiki training together; she just recently took the final step in her Reiki studies. This past weekend, she completed her training with me and is now a Reiki master herself. I have no words with which to express what this means to my heart. And I can't begin to imagine how many people Cassandra will help, as a survivor of breast cancer, filled with the healing power of the unconditional love that is Reiki.
Raven Keyes (New York) has been named best Reiki Master in New York by New York Magazine and is a regular contributor to Reiki News and a previous contributor to Psychology Today. Her work with Dr. Oz, Columbia Presbyterian ...