This is part 2 in a still evolving series of interviews with my co-participants in the study. It is my pleasure to introduce you to Dr. Larry Burk, M.D., the paper's author.
M & E
Can you please tell us about your medical background and how you eventually found interest in parapsychology research?
My story begins in my hometown at the University of Pittsburgh where I did my medical school and radiology residency training. There I was fortunate to get in on the ground floor of MRI just as it began to flourish in 1985. While doing some of the early research in MRI of the knee I developed a mysterious pain in my shoulder which was unrelieved by arthroscopic surgery. This experience inspired me to pursue research in MRI of the shoulder at Thomas Jefferson University after doing a musculoskeletal fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania, eventually leading to the first study of MRI in professional baseball players with the Philadelphia Phillies.
After this very conventional beginning, I was unexpectedly launched into a multifaceted adventure into holistic healing in 1987. It was prompted by a perfect storm of events including my father being diagnosed with metastatic renal cancer, discovering my first metaphysical bookstore, and joining the national MRI safety committee to address concerns about claustrophobic patients and the health effects of electromagnetic fields. The safety issues led me to become interested in hypnosis and acupuncture, taking my first hypnosis training in 1990 while beginning to explore alternative cancer therapies for my dad including acupuncture.
The next stop on the journey was private practice in Virginia Beach where I was introduced to the Edgar Cayce material and medical intuition. Experiences with a number of talented intuitives caused a significant paradigm shift in my worldview, and in 1993 I moved to Durham, home of my alma mater, Duke University, and the Rhine Research Center, formerly the Duke Parapsychology Laboratory. I took a job as section head of musculoskeletal radiology at Duke and also pursued parapsychology research in intuitive diagnosis, eventually becoming a founding member of the American Board of Scientific Medical Intuition and Rhine board president for a year.
Upon arriving at Duke I discovered a number of like-minded colleagues and started the Mind-Body Medicine Study Group. The deaths of one of those friends and my father led me down a spiritual rabbit hole into the world of dreams and shamanic journeying, including a healing encounter with my first power animal, the jaguar. Following these unusual forms of guidance I co-founded the Duke Center for Integrative Medicine in 1998, became the education director and took the UCLA Acupuncture Course for Physicians. I left full-time radiology and began to practice acupuncture along with hypnosis and dream work at a variety of clinics at Duke.
A fortunate twist in the story occurred in 2002 when I was introduced to EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques), the perfect combination of my hypnosis and acupuncture training. Through a series of magical synchronicities in 2004 I was guided to leave Duke to set up Healing Imager, PC, to offer consulting services in MRI musculoskeletal radiology for NationalRad and in EFT and hypnosis for Oriental Health Solutions, LLC. I became a Certified Energy Health Practitioner through the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology in 2010 and was certified in hypnosis by the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis in 2011.
After telling stories about all these healing adventures for many years, I was finally inspired to publish Let Magic Happen: Adventures in Healing with a Holistic Radiologist in 2012. Along the way the journey has continued to unfold in mysterious ways. I’ve explored my own various musculoskeletal ailments through the lens of symptoms as metaphors and have gained valuable insights that I enjoy sharing with patients in my practice as well as with healthcare practitioners through workshops. In 2014 my first medical intuition teacher Winter Robinson, MA, invited me to co-facilitate Medical Intuition and Symbolic Disease workshops with her at The Monroe Institute in Faber, VA.
My use of EFT has expanded to include working with symbolic grief-related illnesses such as sinusitis and post-nasal drip in conjunction with After-Death Communication using imagery and dream work. Health-related dreams have expanded as a focus inspiring me to publish a research paper in 2015 on women who have warning dreams about their breast cancers before diagnosis.
How did this breast cancer dreams study come together?
I first heard of the dream breast warning phenomenon from a physiologist-turned-mediation teacher friend who had a series of vague dreams about cancer culminating in a precognitive dream of having surgery on her breast by a woman surgeon. This startling dream prompted her to go for a mammogram which was normal. Unsatisfied by this result she pressed the radiologist to do an ultrasound. The radiologist refused saying it was not standard practice to do ultrasound to search for a cancer that was not palpable or visible on mammography. She pleaded to have it done exactly where the dream indicated, and the radiologist was stunned to find it.
Another friend is a physician-turned-consciousness researcher who had two disturbing dreams in one night. The first scary dream was about a serial killer. The second one was about having breast cancer. Those were enough to send her for a mammogram which showed a cancer in the location from her dream. A third friend of mine reported that “I had a dream that I had cancer. I went to the G.P complaining of a lump and spasm-like feelings on my sternum. The G.P. concluded it was normal breast tissue, and the feeling in my sternum was dismissed, a devastating mistake. A year later, a different doctor diagnosed stage 3 breast cancer.”
These three eye-opening stories of dream intuition inspired me to do a literature and Internet search for additional examples. Psychiatrists Vasily Kasatkin and Robin Royston have reported large series of dreams that warn of a variety of health concerns, including cancer. Kasatkin‟s research is described in Robert Van de Castle‟s book, Our Dreaming Mind.
Royston recounted the case of a woman named Nancy, who had a precognitive dream of receiving a stunning blow to the chest by a strange hooded figure. She punched the figure, who turned out to be herself, in the chest and shouted, “Bad Nancy,” which turned out to a be a play on words for Malig-Nancy when she was diagnosed with breast cancer 5 months later. www.worlddreambank.org/B/BADNANCY.HTM
In searching for recent research, I got more than I bargained for when I hit the "mother lode" by finding Wanda Easter Burch's She Who Dreams. In her book she describes the dreams that guided her to find her cancer after doctors dismissed her nagging breast pain. Wanda also presented Dreaming Well: Harvesting Dream Imagery for Healing in the 2008 Psiber Dreaming Conference. She reported a survey of 19 women from a 2004 breast cancer support group meeting at the Charles Wood Cancer Center in Glens Falls, N.Y. Ten had experienced prodromal dreams of their breast cancers, with warning visits from deceased family members in all but one of them.
I presented many of these cases in my Dream Diagnosis of Cancer and Clinical Correlation talk at the 2013 IASD conference, and the discussion afterwards centered on ways to create a database that would allow scientific study of prodromal dreams in breast cancer. Included in this dialogue was the management team from www.dreamscloud.com, who offered to collaborate in providing a cyber platform to facilitate collecting this important data. This project can be initially approached retrospectively in the short term, beginning with Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October (including outreach to breast cancer support groups), but ideally it would evolve into a long term prospective study.
For an initial retrospective study, a request could be posted on the Dreams Cloud website for women with confirmed diagnoses of breast cancer to post any prodromal dreams they previously recorded in a dream diary. According to a search of their site, there have only been two spontaneously reported dreams of breast cancer posted since February 2013, without any indication of radiological follow up or a confirmed diagnosis. Beginning to collect more comprehensive data in this fashion would provide some idea of how a prospective study might work, with the goal of establishing a substantial online breast cancer dream registry.
M & E
Post publication you introduced a number of us from the study to one another. Have you noticed any similarities amongst participants in terms of personalities, worldviews, or how we seem to process information? Do you suspect there may be certain characteristics shared by people prone precognitive dreams pertaining to illness?
Since I know about 1/3 of the group rather well now including two of my closest friends and have had some personal interactions with most of the rest, I do have a sense about some shared characteristics. Many of you have a long history of intuitive guidance, so the fact that you are breast cancer dreamers may not be that surprising. My one close friend is a cardiovascular physiologist turned mindfulness teacher, and the other is a physician/psychologist synchronicity researcher. Kat and Wanda have both written books about their intuitive development. Carolyn Kinney is an outside-the-box thinking nursing professor who published her article in the 90s even before Wanda's book came out. There are also 3 women from the IASD who have doing dream work for years.
M & E
Do you think such medical intuition is unique to certain people or can it be developed in those with no such history? I see that you are offering a couple of medical intuition classes in 2016. Can you please tell us about those?
Clearly some people are born with more enhanced intuitive abilities than others, and some acquire them as survival skills due to childhood trauma in dysfunctional families. Others have very active left brains whose right brains only come out to play during sleep as intuitive dreams or through guided imagery processes. It is kind of the like Force in Star Wars. Some training may be required for Jedi skills to emerge, while others like Rey in the new version seem to know exactly what to do when the time comes for it. Winter Robinson was one of my first intuitive teachers, and I am thrilled to be co-facilitating a series of medical intuition workshops with her at the Monroe Institute.
You are working on a book with one of the study participants, Kat Kanavos, who will also be interviewed as part of this series. Can you tell us more about that project? What is the vision or is that still in the shaping process?
Kat and I have had fun co-presenting at the last 2 IASD conferences on dreams and breast cancer, so the book idea came from those shared experiences. We have both written books and spend a lot of time working with social media, and it felt right to both of us to collaborate on this book project. The tentative title is Dreams that Can Save Your Life: Early Warning Signs of Cancer and Other Diseases. In addition to the dream material already collected for the research paper, we have been gathering reports of dreams of many other types of cancer including thyroid, prostate, skin, brain, lung, uterine, and colon cancers. Thus far we have the outline completed and are working on the first chapters for the book proposal.
Part 1: I Was Diagnosed with Breast Cancer in a Dream: An Interview with Wanda Burch
Dr. Larry Burk's Website
Dr. Burk's book (available in paperback and Kindle version)