A Cure for Cancer

By Keith Varnum

Past the seeker as he prayed, came the cripple and the beggar and the beaten.
And seeing them, he cried,
“Great God, how is it that a loving creator can see such things and yet do nothing about them?” God said, “I did do something. I made you.

– Sufi teaching

In my wildest imagination, I never dreamed of helping someone kick cancer over the phone!

One evening in 1985, the telephone rang. It was my brother John who lived in Washington, D.C. A call from my elder sibling was highly unusual. A year my senior, John hadn’t connected with me for several years. It wasn’t that we disliked each other; we loved one another. We simply didn’t have much in common and, therefore, little to talk about. He was a big city, government lawyer, married with a family. I was an ex-hippie acupuncturist living the single life in Boston.

When I answered the telephone, it took me a moment to recognize my brother’s voice. John was crying profusely, his voice conveying a feeling of terror and extreme loss. I’d never heard my brother in this condition. He was ordinarily a bastion of macho strength and bravado.

“John? What’s wrong? What’s happened? The boys? Sharon? Did something happen to Mom?”

“I’m dying, Keith,” John choked out between sobs.

My brother had developed a cancerous tumor the size of a golf ball in the center of his brain stem. Most of the left side of his body was already paralyzed. Within a few weeks doctors said the paralysis would reach his heart. At that point, he’d die.

I was stunned. “Can’t they operate or something? Did you get a second opinion?”

The answer was no, they couldn’t operate because of the size and location of the tumor. Yes, he’d seen a slew of doctors. All the cancer specialists he consulted concurred: because of the location and size of the tumor, his condition was beyond help through surgery, radiation or chemotherapy. There was nothing medical science could do. My brother had approximately three weeks to live. John had been sent home to die. His wife Sharon and our mother were immobilized with grief and anxiety.

“What can I do, John?”

“Nothing, Keith. I just need to talk to someone. I’ve tried to talk to Sharon and Mom. Every time I do, they just break down and cry. The doctors can’t help me, so they don’t want any further contact with me. My friends, well, they don’t know what to say, so they avoid me. I just need someone to talk to, Keith. Will you talk to me?”

John had never asked me for any kind of assistance our whole lives. He was the big brother who always had everything together. I was the younger brother, the nonconformist who espoused strange philosophies, made weird career choices and had all the societal problems. Talk to him? Of course I would talk to him! I was willing to do anything I could for him. I immediately offered to catch the next plane to Washington.

“No, that’s not what I need, Keith. There’s nothing you can do for me here. I just want to talk to someone.”

“Okay, John,” I answered.

We conversed for over two hours the first night. I quickly realized that despite my accumulation of so many varied, alternative healing techniques, nothing in my bag of tricks could help my brother. It was too late to try acupuncture, macrobiotics, yoga or rebirthing. The cancer was too far advanced. He was paralyzed. He was being fed intravenously. It was too late to change his diet or lifestyle. I’d never felt so helpless.

What use is all my healing knowledge, I asked myself, if I can’t help my own brother in a life and death crisis? 

Again, I offered to fly to Washington. Again, he refused. He simply wanted someone to listen to him and be with him right where he was—in pain, fear and despair. He didn’t want to be alone in his terror. Death was stealthily approaching, and my brother had surrendered to the inevitable. He asked me to make sure his two young sons had a strong male presence to support them as they grew up. Although barely staying afloat in the ocean of life’s emotional challenges myself, I assured him I’d be there as a caring and reliable father figure for his sons. When we hung up, I was emotionally drained.

John called the next evening and, within minutes, again began crying and expressing his fears. I listened helplessly, offering suggestions based on my beliefs and experience as honestly as I could without causing him even more pain. After he spent himself and broke off the connection, I meditated late into the night searching for some way to help this man who was such an integral part of me. The answer I received didn’t seem appropriate, but I was determined to trust my inner coach. It had never let me down before.

When the telephone rang the next evening, I listened to his already familiar litany of fears and angry tirades. Finally, taking a quivering breath, I put to him the question my inner coach had suggested, “John, do you want to die?”

“No, damn it!” he yelled into the receiver. “What a stupid question! What the hell’s wrong with you! Of course, I don’t want to die!”

Drawing on my abiding faith in my spirit, I responded with total assurance, “Well, you don’t have to. You can decide to live.”

I told him about people who’d been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Many I knew personally and some I’d heard of. Like him, the medical profession had abandoned them. Like him, they were sent home to die.

“But they refused to accept the verdict of death, John. They healed themselves.”

There was a long pause on the other end of the line. Finally, he asked, “What kind of cancer?”

“All kinds,” I answered. “Through the power of meditation and the personal power of intention, the disease went into remission. The cancers simply disappeared without any medical explanation.”

I knew the concept was hard for my brother to accept. The notion of self-healing was difficult for John to understand when he was healthy, let alone while looking death in the face. Meditation, spirit guides, angels, other dimensions—those things didn’t really exist for John. He loved me. I knew that as fact. But he felt I was a kook. I asked him to think about it. He said he would. The conversation ended shortly thereafter. I worried that he would dismiss me and not call again.

The next evening, I hung around the telephone. It was getting late. It was past the hour my brother usually went to sleep. I was getting up my courage to call him when the phone rang. It was John. We talked about the practical and physical worries that had preyed on his mind throughout the day. Would there be enough life insurance money for his family? Would his early demise emotionally scar his sons? He cried. The paralysis had spread. He didn’t think he had much more time.

Once again I was prodded intuitively to ask, “John, do you want to die?

Again, his anger crackled across the telephone line. No, he did not want to die. How could I even ask such a ridiculous question? This tumor in his brain wasn’t something he wished for!

As before, I told him he didn’t have to die. He could decide to live. I listened to him rant on about my irrational beliefs and eccentric lifestyle. I held my tongue.

“Do you know anyone who has beaten terminal cancer?” he demanded angrily. “Personally, Keith! Do you personally know anybody who’s survived advanced cancer after the doctors gave up on them?”

Pausing first to fortify myself, I then began sharing the stories of every acquaintance I knew personally who had cured themselves of terminal cancer. Like many people facing a medical death sentence, my brother didn’t want to hear about any secondhand examples of cures. He was only interested in those case histories in which I personally witnessed people with tangible, visible complications directly linked to medically diagnosed cancer. In addition, the examples were only valid for John if the people had gone into remission and been cancer-free for at least a year after the healing. John basically eliminated every story I had in my arsenal except for five people. But that was enough. He was listening.

Fortunately, in regard to my story telling, John’s memory was slipping fast. So, I could get away with repeating the same five case histories over and over again!

I even got him to meditate with me over the phone. Together, we asked for assistance from—as John put it—“whoever was listening.” After two months of nightly, intensely emotional talking marathons, John awoke one morning to find his paralysis gone! He could move his whole body. His wife rushed him to the hospital for a magnetic resonance imaging test. The tumor had completely disappeared! Within weeks, John’s health returned to normal.

My brother decided to live. He cured himself. John is alive and kicking today. And he’s now decidedly more open to possibilities beyond the limitations of the tribal collective consciousness—the arbitrary societal beliefs he took on from his family, friends, school and society.

In fact, he’s begun his own exploration outside the boundaries of mainstream cultural conditioning. John is enjoying being a “househusband,” driving the kids to soccer practice and music lessons while his wife Sharon gallivants around the globe lecturing as a tenured professor.