A month ago today I got news that would forever change my life. It was the day of my 51st birthday and a few weeks before Christmas.
A cancer diagnosis wasn’t the birthday gift I was expecting.
It all happened rather quickly and hit like a column from the Parthenon falling from the sky and onto my head. I’ve written about it on my personal blog [here] for those who want the details.
I’m also posting updates on my personal Facebook page here.
The diagnosis came after emergency surgery a week earlier.
The first thing I thought of when I woke up in the hospital was that from the moment we are born, we are on a journey to death— and that I felt lucky that despite a difficult surgery, I was still here.
As days passed and reality set in about the new focus of my life, which now includes chemotherapy and a lot of follow up treatment, I keep thinking about something else: my Greek community that has embraced me during this difficult time.
Time and time again, it’s that community that I have surrounded myself with all my life that have created the support mechanism for me to survive and come out on top of this battle.
Bishops and priests are texting, praying— even traveling half-way across the country to tend to my spiritual needs. “It’s who we are,” Bishop Demetrios told me when he showed up at my apartment in New York City, after a flight from Chicago, only to offer me Holy Communion.
“We are not only here for the good times, but mores for the difficult times,” said another old friend, Metropolitan Nathanael of Chicago after remembering me in his prayers.
My friend and neighbor Chef Maria Loi continues to send organic chicken soup, organic pasta and other healthy foods that I need to regain my strength and gain weight as I prepare for chemotherapy.
Her “care packages” always come with a handwritten note or a photo-copied page out of her book, The Greek Diet, with a tip about eating properly, or a wise quote from the ancient Greeks.
“Let food be your medicine,” Maria reminded me with the first care package, reiterating that these aren’t her words, but those of Hippocrates and that we “modern” humans have had this wisdom at our disposal for more than two thousand years.
I also received (and continue to receive) dozens of emails with information about the research that’s been done linking cancer prevention and treatment with a specific kind of extra virgin olive oil and even dandelion roots, along with tips from their parents, grandparents and others in their families who had cancer.
While faith and friendship aren’t exclusively a “Greek thing” and not a special attribute exclusively to Greeks, I do believe that people’s philotimo has also come out and enriched me during this time, and philotimo is certainly a Greek thing.
Marianthi from Chicago sent me a beautiful blue blanket with a note that a friend of hers sent her the same blanket during her chemotherapy and it kept her warm, while Marylin— a woman whom I don’t even know and only knows me from social media— visited the Church of St. Nektarios on the island of Aegina and lit a candle, as did Elizabeth, at a beautiful Cathedral in London.
Other friends did the same and sent me videos, which I have kept for those “dark” moments when I need something to lift me up, especially this one from the young, talented daughter of a dear friend.
Another chef friend and cookbook author, Maria Benardis, sent me a series of informative articles that she penned about the importance of nutrition and how the Ancient Greeks treated cancer and other illnesses.
She’s the author of numerous cookbooks and eBooks and perhaps her biggest gift was her willingness to share her research and wisdom by allowing me to share these articles on The Pappas Post, which I will begin doing soon.
The outpouring of support from my community has been overwhelming and while I’m anxious to use up all of that positive energy for my own healing— I’m also anxious to share the wisdom, knowledge and love that I’m getting with all of you— friends and strangers alike.
A heartwarming “efxharisto” to all of you who have sent messages, prayers and encouragement. For regular updates, please follow my personal Facebook page here, or join our email list by clicking the link below..
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