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Man with Incurable Lung Cancer, Turned Down Chemo and Outlived All His Doctors

In 1943, Stamatis Moraitis, a Greek war veteran from Ikaria, Greece came to the USA for a combat-related injury to his arm. He wound up falling in love, marrying a Greek-American woman, and having three lovely children. He  bought his very own Leave it to Beaver three-bedroom house with his 1951 Chevrolet parked in the driveway.

Stamatis was living the American Dream. It all seemed Hollywood perfect until 1976.  That’s when Stamatis began experiencing shortness of breath upon exertion – for example, when working or climbing stairs. Eventually, he consulted a doctor who diagnosed him with terminal lung cancer and gave him only months to live. Predictably the doctor urged him to start chemotherapy immediately as it was his only hope.

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Still not convinced he was a dead man walking Stamatis consulted with nine other doctors. They all told him the exact same thing. He had lung cancer and roughly nine months to live. They all recommended that he start aggressive chemotherapy ASAP.  Ten doctors later Stamatis was finally convinced that he was going to die and soon.

He still refused chemo. Instead, he reasoned since his inevitable funeral would cost a lot less back home, only $200 total, he would return to his birthplace Ikaria, Greece to die peacefully. There he could spend his final days with family and old friends. That’s when his story gets really interesting –remarkably so in fact.

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[box]“Ikaria is named after Ikaros, who according to Greek mythology was the son of master craftsman Daedalus, and who was escaping imprisonment from King Minos in Crete by flying with wings his father had made. But ignoring his father’s advice, Ikarus flew too close to the sun and landed to his death on the island.” “Moraitis and Elpiniki [his wife] moved in with his elderly parents, into a tiny, whitewashed house on two acres of stepped vineyards near Evdilos, on the north side of Ikaria.”

Of course, upon his return to his homeland, although he was very happy to be with loved ones, he was also 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 invariably involved a bottle or two of locally produced wine. I might as well die happy, he thought.”

Image result for Stamatis Moraitis, a Greek war veteran from Ikaria, Greece

Then something miraculous happened. Stamatis started feeling like his old self again and noticed that his strength and stamina were returning. As if out of the blue, Stamatis suddenly 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.

He reaped his garden and, feeling emboldened, cleaned up the family vineyard as well. Easing himself into the island routine, he woke up when he felt like it, worked in the vineyards until mid-afternoon, made himself lunch and then took a long nap. In the evenings, he often walked to the local tavern, where he played dominoes past midnight.


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