Stamatis Moraitis is a Greek war veteran from Ikaria who moved to the USA in 1943 for a combat-related arm injury to his arm. Eventually he met his wife there and had three children with her.
Everything went fine, until 1976, when the shortness of breath he experienced upon exertion turned out to be terminal lung cancer symptoms. The doctors gave him only few months to live and offered him chemo as an only solution.
He didn’t accept the news and consulted 9 other doctors, but all of their opinions weren’t that much different. After some time, he and his family accepted his faith. Stamatis still refused chemotherapy and decided to go back to Ikaria to be buried there and also to say goodbye to the rest of his family he had there.
“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.”
And that’s when things started to change. He started to feel better and happier. His strength returned and decided to plant his own garden.
This served as a therapy for Stamatis. He spent his days on fresh air under the sun and gave him a new meaning to life. The fruits and vegetables he planted became part of his every day meals. After half a year, 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 midafternoon, 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.
The years passed. His health continued to improve. He added a couple of rooms to his parents’ home so his children could visit. He built up the vineyard until it produced 400 gallons of wine a year.”
After 3 decades of the diagnosis he was still alive and breathing and realized that he won’t be another victim of the dreadful disease.
At 97 years of age, he decided to submit to a medical exam to confirm his belief that he has healed his cancer, but he also wanted to learn what did happen and why he did not die. The doctors confirmed that he was completely healthy. Plus, all the doctors who diagnosed him and gave him only 9 months to live have died. Stamatis lived to hi 102 years of age and his death wasn’t due to cancer.
“Herbs have a fascinating place in the local culture, as both food and folk medicine. Sage tea with honey was “our childhood antibiotic,” as my friend Yiorgos Stenos, 84, told me. Ikarians still drink this when they feel a cold coming on, as they do oregano for stomach aches, chamomile for insomnia, and more. Most of these infusions are mild diuretics, helping relieve hypertension; perhaps one reason locals have relatively little heart disease.”
Nature can improve the patient’s mental health which is very important in cases of life threatening diseases such as cancer, and time spent with the people one love only add to the positive effect.
Moreover, Ikaria is known as a Mecca for longevity due to its locally grown foods, fantastic natural beauty, peace, calmness, and healthy inhabitants. The majority of Ikarians do not suffer from the modern deadly diseases such as cancer and heart disease.
“Ikaria’s isolation helped create a living testament to the Mediterranean Diet in its most holistic sense, one in which fresh, seasonal, home-cooked food and community are interwoven in ways that sustain physical and emotional health, human relationships, and the environment.
Many Ikarians live long and well, with less cancer and heart disease than Americans, and virtually no dementia, or depression, drinking wine, enjoying sex, walking, gardening, and socializing into their sunset years. They are 10 times more likely to live to 90 or even 100 than Americans, a statistic that embraces men and women almost equally.”
“Life on Ikaria, even in 2014, is still a paradigm for healthy living, sound of body and mind. The island has taught me to cherish relationships that span generations and continents, to enjoy and appreciate the gifts of nature, to eat real food in its season, and, perhaps, most important of all, to do so with an open heart and an open table, welcoming others to it,” writes Diane Kochilas, an experienced Greek-American chef, cookbook author, and TV cooking show host, titled: Ikaria: The Mindful Mediterranean Diet on the Greek Island Where People Forget to Die.