Councilwoman Maggie Houlihan is a favorite of many familiar with the Encinitas City Council.
Known for her staunch dedication to preserving Encinitas for its community, Houlihan revealed mid-May she wouldn’t be electing chemotherapy to treat the endometrial cancer that had spread throughout her body. She said her oncologist told her chemotherapy would not be a cure nor would it prolong her life.
“Both my oncologist and primary care physician support my decision, as does my family,” said Houlihan, 63. “The chemotherapy available for my situation is extremely toxic—they all are—and could cause permanent cardiac damage. I would lose my hair again and experience the other severe side effects of chemo, such as a diminished immune system, neuropathy, for an extremely low-to-no benefit.”
Houlihan, ever a trendsetter, is utilizing an integrative approach to healing. She practices Qigong, meditation, acupuncture, energy work and diet. A vegetarian for 40 years, she now juices fresh, organic vegetables every day, a recommendation by books on integrative approaches to cancer treatment Houlihan has taken to heart.
Houlihan said although she doesn’t have as much sustained energy as she’s used to—her usual energy output is likely thrice that of most people’s—she is feeling pretty well.
She is also getting palliative care at UCSD Moores Cancer Center. The staff set up a program for her that involves pain management using drugs and doses that allow her to live a full life with minimum disruption.
“It’s working out quite well,” said Houlihan, who hasn’t needed pain medication for more than 10 days, something she counts as a blessing.
While life may take on a new tone for many of those stricken with a disease that claims lives every day, Houlihan said she feels fortunate that she’s always felt it important to “squeeze the essence out of every day.”
“None of us know what the future holds, and each day is unique and the only time we will experience that particular day,” she said. “To me, this means that we need to grab the gusto each and every day as it comes, whether sunny, rainy, filled with challenges or easy. I have a friend who died of a brain aneurysm last Christmastime. She was vibrant, healthy, beautiful and energetic. What a shock. It was devastating.”
“A disease like cancer at least gives one time to prepare for the end of life in a very different way.”
Houlihan intends to continue to serve Encinitas indefinitely as a council member. Her record is a good motivator—among things she’s proudest of as a council member is keeping campaign promises.
Houlihan has always supported community participation, government transparency and environmental protection. She was key to the Community Participation Plan, a process created to inform residents of development coming to their communities so as to give them a chance to understand and offer feedback regarding the project.
In addition to giving the community a voice, Houlihan also assisted in giving it a closer look into council matters. She was involved in increasing transparency in government, including televised council meetings, online documents and an electronic notices system through which citizens can sign up for and receive any and all agendas from council, commission and committee meetings. Houlihan brought the electronic notice idea from UCSD, where she worked in the anthropology department.
Houlihan also helped make significant habitat purchases during her first six years on the council. She said those purchases allowed the council to fulfill some of their obligations to help provide habitat to support indigenous wildlife and plants and migratory wildlife as they move up and down from Mexico to Canada.
“I look forward to the council making this a priority in the future,” she said.
Houlihan’s role as an advocate for Encinitas isn’t so surprising for those who know her. Asking her what she loves about the city is like opening a travel brochure.
“What attracted me first to Encinitas—Leucadia, to be exact—was the Leucadia 101 tree canopy, the beaches, the rural lifestyle, friendly people, the fields of beautiful flowers, the fact that history abutted and was woven among everything new, health food stores and vegetarian restaurants,” she said.
“I knew the first time I set eyes on Leucadia in 1980 that this was where I wanted to live and raise my son.”
She cites among her favorites “the fantastic beaches; historic downtowns; historic buildings, such as the Boat Houses, La Paloma, Olivenhain Town Hall and Germania hotel; Mercantile Building in Cardiff; Lillian Rice architecture, such as the Ecke Family historic home and buildings at Paul Ecke Central School; 1894 School House in downtown Encinitas; [and] Leucadia Pannikin.”
“I love the arts that are expressed every day in our community, including exhibits at City Hall and the library, the Arts Alive Banner Program, Leucadia Art Walk, and most recently, the .
“I love the fact we are bordered by two beautiful lagoons on our north and south borders and that we have great walking/equestrian trails throughout our community. … That we have five unique communities that united as one diverse and very exciting city.
“And I love the people who live here and their efforts and ideas to make this a most attractive, interesting place to live and visit,” said Houlihan. “We are fortunate to have one of the best restaurant rows in San Diego County and some of the most unique retail shops with something for everyone.”