The Man Who Defied A Terminal Diagnosis to Outlive His Doctors

Dave Mihalovic  |  Waking Times  |  May 7 2014

You could say that Stamatis Moraitis forgot to die. The Greek war veteran was diagnosed by 9 different American doctors with lung cancer in 1976. He was given 6 months to live and was encouraged to pursue aggressive cancer treatment. He declined and instead moved back to his native land of Ikaria. Then something incredible happened.

At first, he spent his days in bed, as his mother and wife tended to him. 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.

In the ensuing months, he started to feel stronger. One day, feeling ambitious, he planted some vegetables in the garden. He didn’t expect to live to harvest them, but he enjoyed being in the sunshine, breathing the ocean air. Others could enjoy the fresh vegetables after he was gone.

Six months came and went. Moraitis didn’t die. Instead, 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. Three and a half decades later, he was 97 years old — according to an official document he disputes; he said he was 102 in 2012– and cancer-free. He never went through chemotherapy, took drugs or sought therapy of any sort. All he did was move home to Ikaria.

“It just went away,” said Moraitis. “I actually went back to America about 25 years after moving here to see if the doctors could explain it to me.”


“My doctors were all dead.” Moraitis passed away at 102 years of age

The Lessons To Learn 

Avoid conventional therapy for cancer if you want to live a long life. We don’t have the statistics yet, but it’s unlikely that any person on Earth who has pursued aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatment will live to 100. In most cases they die within 15 years of their treatment. The restoration of health comes from connecting back to our environment and foods that heal us, not medicine.

The Greek Islands are famed for healthy cuisine, so it may come as no surprise that Grecians have fewer cases of heart disease. Staples, including virgin olive oil, greens like arugula and Swiss chard, carbohydrates like chickpeas, lentils and whole-grain bread, and herbs like oregano, parsley and chives, are great for heart health. The traditional diet also minimizes meat consumption with no more than one red meat dish per week.

Although unemployment is high — perhaps as high as 40 percent — most everyone has access to a family garden and livestock. People who work might have several jobs. Someone involved in tourism, for example, might also be a painter or an electrician or have a store. “People are fine here because we are very self-sufficient,” said Thea Parikos who owns a guesthouse in western Ikaria. “We may not have money for luxuries, but we will have food on the table and still have fun with family and friends. We may not be in a hurry to get work done during the day, so we work into the night. At the end of the day, we don’t go home to sit on the couch.”

In the United States, when it comes to improving health, people tend to focus on exercise and what we put into our mouths — organic foods, omega-3’s, micronutrients. We spend nearly $30 billion a year on vitamins and supplements alone. Yet in Ikaria and the other places like it, diet only partly explained higher life expectancy. Exercise — at least the way we think of it, as willful, dutiful, physical activity — played a small role at best.

Ask the very old on Ikaria how they managed to live past 90, and they’ll usually talk about the clean air and the wine. Or, as one 101-year-old woman put it, “we just forget to die.” The reality is they have no idea how they got to be so old. And neither do we. To answer that question would require carefully tracking the lifestyles of a study group and a control group for an entire human lifetime (and then some). We do know from reliable data that people on Ikaria are outliving those on surrounding islands (a control group, of sorts). Samos, for instance, is just eight miles away. People there with the same genetic background eat yogurt, drink wine, breathe the same air, fish from the same sea as their neighbors on Ikaria. But people on Samos tend to live no longer than average Greeks. This is what makes the Ikarian formula so tantalizing and proven in scientific study.

If you pay careful attention to the way Ikarians have lived their lives, it appears that a dozen subtly powerful, mutually enhancing and pervasive factors are at work.

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