The Greatest Gift; Love from Strangers

A cancer diagnosis can be devastating. And to me, it was, indeed. But almost as fast as it hit me in the gut, I immediately spun it around and transformed it into something good.

For me, sharing my diagnosis with tens of thousands of people who follow me on Facebook, Twitter, instagram or via The Pappas Post meant going public.

Some family members were mortified that I “went public” with my disease, because it’s such a “Greek” thing to do– to keep quiet and not air your private life in public.

But I saw it differently– that by sharing my diagnosis and subsequent journey, I might help one, two, a few people who might also be struggling with an illness.

I felt that by sharing my own experiences, as well as my knowledge that I was obtaining, that I might help people along the way.

By going public, I also opened the floodgates of love from all corners of the globe, including this note from a complete stranger, which I have read, and re-read a dozen times.

Dear Mr. Pappas,

Though we have never met in person, the news you posted in the Pappas Post the other day touched me profoundly for several reasons.

Perhaps I should begin by introducing myself; my name is Maria Petrakis and in addition to being an avid reader of your online Greek news service, we have many mutual friends who have always spoken very highly of you.

Born in Greece but raised and educated in San Francisco, I recently returned to Thessaloniki, where I co-head Institutional Advancement at the American Farm School and Perrotis College. Your publication has done so much to help me feel like I am never “far away” – whether in Greece or in the US – Thank you for giving us all a way to feel connected, whether we miss Greece or the US or both.

After reading your recent post, I took the liberty of lighting a “lampada” for your speedy recovery, here at the School’s church, Aghios Ioannis Chrysostomos. This small church at the edge of campus has always offered me comfort, and its story is unique – it was built by the students themselves in the 1950’s, and each student was asked to carry a stone back from his or her village to contribute to the effort.

I am joined by colleagues and friends in wishing you a speedy recovery – we hope to read another article very soon telling your readers you are healthy and pursuing your passions just as before!

Best wishes,

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