The Man Who Defied Odds, Turned Down Chemotherapy and Drugs and Outlived All His Doctors

Flickr - Vineyard - picdropsDave Mihalovic, Prevent Disease
Waking Times

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 statstics yet, but it’s unlikely that any person on Earth who has pursued aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatment will live to a 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. It’s easy to get enough rest if no one else wakes up early and the village goes dead during afternoon naptime. It helps that the cheapest, most accessible foods are also the most healthful — and that your ancestors have spent centuries developing ways to make them taste good. It’s hard to get through the day in Ikaria without walking up 20 hills. You’re not likely to ever feel the existential pain of not belonging or even the simple stress of arriving late. Your community makes sure you’ll always have something to eat, but peer pressure will get you to contribute something too. You’re going to grow a garden, because that’s what your parents did, and that’s what your neighbors are doing. At day’s end, you’ll share a cup of the seasonal herbal tea with your neighbor because that’s what he’s serving. Several glasses of wine may follow the tea, but you’ll drink them in the company of good friends.

Every one of these factors can be tied to longevity. That’s what the $70 billion diet industry and $20 billion health-club industry do in their efforts to persuade us that if we eat the right food or do the right workout, we’ll be healthier, lose weight and live longer. But these strategies rarely work. Not because they’re wrong-minded: it’s a good idea for people to do any of these healthful activities. The problem is, it’s difficult to change individual behaviors when community behaviors stay the same. In the United States, you can’t go to a movie, walk through the airport or buy cough medicine without being routed through a gantlet of candy bars, salty snacks and sugar-sweetened beverages. The processed-food industry spends more than $4 billion a year tempting us to eat. How do you combat that? Discipline is a good thing, but discipline is a muscle that fatigues. Sooner or later, most people cave in to relentless temptation.

As our access to calories has increased, we’ve decreased the amount of physical activity in our lives. In 1970, about 40 percent of all children in the U.S. walked to school; now fewer than 12 percent do. Our grandparents, without exercising, burned up about five times as many calories a day in physical activity as we do. At the same time, access to food has exploded.

Ikaria’s lifestyle plays a very important part in their longevity. Ikarians stay active by walking most of the time which lowers depression, weight and mortality. Their diet is high in vegetables, fruits, high-quality olive oil and fish. They eat very little red meat.

Instead of drinking cows milk, the people of Ikaria drink organic goat’s milk most of their lives. This organic milk is rich in antibacterial compounds as well as tryptophan. Most of the cows milk we drink today is pasteurized and filled with many growth hormones.

Lessons from Ikaria:

  1. Get your antioxidants! Ikarians eat a variation of the Mediterranean diet, which consists of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and a little fish. One key feature of the Ikarian diet are wild greens, many of which have ten times the level of antioxidants in green tea or red wine!
  2. Drink tea! Regular herbal tea consumption is common of Ikarian centenarians. Many of the teas here act as mild diuretics, prescribed by doctors to lower blood pressure.
  3. Take regular naps. People who nap at least five times a week for half an hour have 35% reduced chance of cardiovascular disease. Stress hormones also decrease when you’re napping.
  4. Make walking part of your daily routine. The hilly land lends itself well to burning calories. The Ikarians exercise without thinking about it just by walking to church or work.

For people to adopt a healthful lifestyle, they need to live in an ecosystem, so to speak, that makes it possible. As soon as you take culture, belonging or purpose out of the picture, the foundation for long healthy lives collapses. The power of such an environment lies in the mutually reinforcing relationships among lots of small nudges and default choices. There’s no silver bullet to keep death and the diseases of old age at bay. There are no real secrets either. It’s about living life the fullest, being true to yourself, connecting with others, eating real food and being physically active effortlessly. Everything else just flows after that.

About the Author

Dave Mihalovic is a Naturopathic Doctor who specializes in vaccine research, cancer prevention and a natural approach to treatment.


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  • Moleman

    While I believe in and practice a healthy lifestyle and cultural, like the old Greek, I must say that I believe such generally will affect our quality of life; but when it comes to longevity, I think genetics have more to do with it. My family here in the US, we are descended from nothern Italians. Other than myself, my family pretty much eats whatever they want and live like most other Americans…and they all live well into their 80’s and 90’s. My mother is 89 and still going strong. My mother never exercised (although never owning a car and walking a lot probably helped…b ut still…no cardio- ever); and eats crap. My older sister is 70- althogh she has CPOD from smoking four packs of unfiltered cigs a day for many years, I’m amazed that she’s even still alive, and not feeble or even elserly-appearing. Genetics! I’m 52. Last time I went to a doctor was 1978. My late aunt who was 96, still drove over 40 miles to town several times a week, and had never had an accident in my entire lifetime!

  • Angie

    Every person that I know who has ever been diagnosed with cancer and I would say that is about six people and who have gone through surgery, chemo and radiation have all died within 5 years or less and all had terrible side effects from the treatment that were debilitating and painful. Some right up to their last breath in particular one person I knew who went through excruciating agony. Chemo, radiation and cutting out the body part doesn’t work but it is the only legally allowed treatments they can give you. In other words, it is illegal for AMA doctors to treat you with supplements, herbs or homeopathy or naturopathy. I would never go to a doctor for cancer treatment. In fact there are many published cases of people who ignore their AMA doctors, some who simply do nothing that go on to a complete recovery. There are many web sites that are great resources for naturally healing diseases such as cancer, I would take a look at before allowing myself to be killed for the purposes of greed.

  • Douglas Gray

    A friend of mine had cancer, got chemotherapy, and it came back after a few years. At the end, he was in the hospital for about a week with a 24 chemo drip thing that he wheeled around. A couple of weeks later he died. His wife said they charged about $17,000 for that week in the hospital. They certainly knew he was going to die soon, the cancer was spreading rapidly, but why not milk the guy’s insurance company for $17,000? This was at Huntington Memorial in Pasadena, CA.

    • george

      That is the MO of the cancer industry in America. They simply want to make as much money off of you as they can before you die. In most cases they know the treatments they offer (chemo, radiation, surgery) do nothing to cure or even prolong your existence….they are expensive exercises of quackery couched in validity based on fraudulent science.

  • Thank you – the 4 point lesson from Ikaria makes perfect sense and great advice.

  • LKZ

    #4 – walking

    A huge part of life in Greece. Miles one way to your destination was not uncommon. Very important.

  • Ponce

    Same here, all my life my blood pressure has been above 165/108 and with many times going as high as 226/139. I refuse to take any drugs and I am still alive……I am 74 years old and my goal is to reach 132, no particular reason…..I am just to busy to die today.

  • Syllamo

    Nice article which demonstrates that a healthy society leads to individual health (the reverse is also notable).
    So now, how does one fix something which is broken at its root?

    • CheetahWhizerd

      Pull it up, make sure the ground is right, and replant.

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