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The “F” Word That Rules Our Life

A year ago today, my father-in-law succumbed to prostate cancer.

It was a grueling 4-year battle that saw him deteriorate until all that was left of him was skin and bones. I still have no idea why his body began to mutate against himself.

Before the cancer, he was the epitome of health. At age 70 he worked vigorously and daily in his large garden. He ate (mostly) locally and organically, and in moderation.

He exercised his mind by hand-drawing architectural plans.

He was surrounded by beauty and love from his adoring wife, children and grandchildren.

But yet, cancer still seized him. I don’t know why.

Perhaps it was genetics; perhaps it was bad luck. But cancer came, and it didn’t let go.

Being at the center of a family going through an emotionally and physically exhausting experience such as cancer, I watched and wondered what would happen if we were in the States.

The process is similar: countless doctor’s appointments, MRIs, bone scans, chemotherapy, radiation, sweat, tears, meals being delivered by nearby family or neighbors, silent prayers for full recovery.

But yet the process felt different.


It is Written. “Maktoob.”

Behind every uttered prayer was a slight resignation in a higher being. Let this be Your way.

It wasn’t the TV commercials dotting the airwaves today: a series of faces saying “No” to cancer, demanding it to be obliterated from our vocabulary. This fighting spirit we have in the West, while intoxicating, can be famously distorted.

One of my favorite movies of all times is Slumdog Millionaire. If you haven’t seen it, watch it. Now.

The last words in the movie were “It is written.” Of course, the movie ends on a happy note.

The boy gets the girl and a million rupees. And we viewers think Maktoob is Arabic for “it is written.”

It also means “fate,” which we are trained to believe means happy endings in the West.

It was fate that the young lovers met! It was serendipitous that we found one another after all these years! Yes, fate can be beautiful.

But in the Old World, fate also means reality.

It means you take the good with the bad and that God Almighty (or any form of a Higher Being you believe in) wills it to be for you, in that particular instance.

You can fight, as my father-in-law did with rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, but in the end, cancer won. And it was fate.

Where’s my Hollywood Ending?

I write this entry with mixed feelings.

On the one hand, I find the lack of fighting spirit in the Mediterranean to be disheartening and weak.

On the other hand, there is a sense of peace in not struggling to be in control at all times.

If something is not in your hands, then why fight futilely? Why pretend we have a choice, when sometimes the road is already written?

This is what Fate means. It’s a quiet resignation that sometimes shit happens.

And as much as we all want a happy ending, sometimes it’s not in the cards.

Not at that moment or for that circumstance.

But there will be other happy endings if you choose to move where the story ends.

Life is the Gift

It has been a year since my father-in-law’s passing.

We share his words, his vivaciousness, and zest for clean living.

We do not cower in the shadows of his memory.

His toothy grin and wrinkled face in pictures are front and center in our living rooms.

We visit his graveyard all the time. His grandchildren have planted evergreen trees and Bougainvillea at the cemetery where he has been put to rest.

The trees grow, yet his memory will surely fade over time.

But we still do our best to remember his smile, his kindness, and his love for his family.

Life is a cycle that is all-too-well-understood in the Mediterranean.

There is no squeamishness about death.

There’s no way around it.

With every first breath, there is a last. Every beginning must find its end; life is to be celebrated.

Whether the life was cut short due to an accident or illness, it is irrelevant.

Because life itself is the gift. Not the end of the story.


Originally published on Sivana Spirit on July 25, 2016

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  • Reply serena devi August 6, 2016 at 10:34 AM

    Hi Claudia, I stummbled on your blog and felt very inspired all through reading your journey from USA and how the new life in Cyprus transformed and still changing your perception. Myself, a single 50, after years of travel, corporate made major changes in 2008, and funny that I was so drawn to Cyprus and Meditarian life that I am moving to Cyprus this October, it is on a wimp and every cell in my body wants to rest, become healthy and feel the love of sun on my skin, rising as Aprodite :). If you like, drop me an email, I am writer and poet and would love to meet you in person. And do write, your writing is unique and sincere, it did magic for me. Thanks

    • Reply Claudia August 19, 2016 at 11:19 AM

      Hi Serena,

      I am so glad you wrote! If I am speaking frankly, I found moving to the island quite tough initially. I moved there at age 30, with 2 babies in tow. I left my corporate job (quite high paying, but taxing emotionally, physically and spiritually). I had to give the island (and myself) a solid couple of years to get used to the language and the pace. Plus, my kids were getting older and therefore more independent. After I got over this phase, I loved it. And still do. I transform every time I step onto that sacred soil. I return to my natural, vibrant self, and I work hard at keeping it whenever I travel off the island.

      Drop me an email at and send me your details. Perhaps we can meet for a cup of coffee, ouzu or wine.

      Hope to hear from you soon, my fellow goddess!

    • Reply Claudia February 13, 2017 at 12:33 PM

      Just now sent you an email, Serena. Would love to meet up. xx

  • Reply Kathleen at July 30, 2016 at 10:20 PM

    It sounds like your father-in-law had a great life and a loving and realistic death. I, too, am a realist and I have mixed feelings about the so-called fighting spirit pushed on us by the American culture. Sometimes the fighting spirit is just denial. Or even unkindness. It’s OK to grow old and die. Whether we choose to fight our diagnosis with every option modern medicine provides, or to just allow it to be, it’s an OK choice. Best wishes to you and your family on the anniversary of your father-in-law’s death.

    • Reply Claudia August 19, 2016 at 11:11 AM

      Thank you, Kathleen, for your response. I had a very difficult time writing this article, and it’s taken me some time to look at the responses, as my emotions are much too raw. I suppose I am still learning the difference between fighting versus accepting. Everyone is healing, we are all fine. And he would want us to continue living. So we live.

      See you soon, Kathleen –

  • Reply donna werstler July 28, 2016 at 12:40 PM

    Just briefly, I can honestly relate to losing a loved one through death. My precious husband, too, gave in to cancer, pancreatic cancer. (Oddly enough my sister had passed away, from the very same, a little over a year before he did.) So, I understand very well. It’s painful and horrible and just plain unfair watching an otherwise robust, perfectly healthy man go through this to simply end up skin and bones. But, for those who remain behind, life continues. I learned that early on and decided to make the most of my life. So, I dug in and got myself involved in many groups (secular and church-related) to keep myself busy and to prevent me from sitting around, having pity parties, attended by only me. My philosophy is “I could live a long, long time; I refuse to be miserable. I’m going to LIVE until I die.” To set the record straight, I am not just thinking of ME and what makes ME happy. I’ve also begun volunteering and that takes the attention off ME, giving me great joy in the midst of my journey. Yes, I am alone – and still do have my moments – but I am rarely lonely! God has been good and has seen me through.

    • Reply Claudia August 19, 2016 at 10:56 AM

      Hi Donna,

      Thank you for sharing. Knowing you through my class, I know you to be a vivacious, loving, caring and fun person. You are definitely living and I am grateful having known you. You are such a lovely, lovely woman and I know your son, other family members, friends, and community (and myself!) are lucky to have you in our lives.

      See you soon, sweetie –

  • Reply Lois July 28, 2016 at 8:39 AM

    What a beautifully written tribute, Claudia. Thank you. Sweet and hopeful, yet realistic.

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