In 1976, a Greek American Stamatis Moraitis was diagnosed a terminal lung cancer and only few months of life.
He was advised by his doctor to start chemotherapy immediately as his only hope.
Stamatis consulted with nine other doctors and they all told him the exact same thing.
Stamatis was finally convinced that he was going to die soon, but he refused the chemotherapy and returned to his birthplace Ikaria in Greece, instead. There he could spend his final days with family and old friends.
Upon his return to his homeland, he was very depressed and felt hopeless about his condition. He slept most of the time while his wife and mother acted as his primary caregivers.
As time passed his hopelessness waned and a strong desire to live took its place. He began spending whatever precious time he might have left with friends.
“He reconnected with his faith. On Sunday mornings, he hobbled up the hill to a tiny Greek Orthodox chapel where his grandfather once served as a priest. When his childhood friends discovered that he had moved back, they started showing up every afternoon. They’d talk for hours, an activity that involved a bottle or two of locally produced wine.”
Miraculously, Stamatis noticed that his strength was returning. He had an idea to plant a garden even though he still believed he would never live to reap its bounty.
The gardening was very therapeutic and brought him into steady productive contact with the sun, fresh air and the sea breeze. The garden project was his new life purpose.
Each morning he woke up early eager to spend time in his new garden. In fact he would spend most of the day gardening. His wife and mother would prepare his meals with fresh plants and herbs from the garden. Six months had come and gone yet he was still alive.
Thirty years after his diagnosis, Stamatis’ health continued to improve and he realized that he wasn’t going to die from cancer after all.
At the age of 97, he summoned the courage to submit to a medical exam. He wanted to know what had happened to him and why he didn’t die.
After a thorough examination, the doctors give him a clean bill of health. He also learnt that all the doctors who had predicted he would die in nine months – all of them were dead!
Stamatis lived on until the age of 102, and when he did die it wasn’t from cancer!
Herbs have a fascinating place in the local culture, as both food and folk medicine. Sage tea with honey was ‘the local antibiotic.’ Ikarians still drink this when they feel a cold coming on, as they do oregano for stomach aches, chamomile for insomnia, and more.
The lesson here is simple but profound: having a reason or purpose to continue life is essential for healing. Fresh, seasonal food is powerful medicine, and last but not least, sharing quality time with loved ones when sick and helpless can transform the depressed mind back to a state gratitude and admiration of the miracle called life. In the end, real healing is the soul’s domain.
It should be mentioned that the Greek island of Ikaria has a well deserved reputation as a Mecca for longevity.
The island is famed for its rich, locally grown food, which is traditionally prepared, its spirited beauty, and its long lived, mostly healthy inhabitants, many of whom are centenarians.
Indeed, Ikarians rarely fall prey to today’s most common killer lifestyle diseases like heart disease and cancer.
Many Ikarians live long and well, with virtually no dementia, or depression, drinking wine, enjoying sex, walking, gardening, and socializing into their sunset years.
Recent reports indicate that life in Ikaria is still idyllic and its reputation as the “place where people forget to die” is as relevant as ever.
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