Patrick Swayze’s death — Everything about the cancer that claimed his life

Patrick Swayze

Patrick Swayze defined the 80s and 90s era of Hollywood as a leading man and heartthrob known for cult classic movies such as Dirty Dancing and Ghost. Apart from acting, he was an accomplished dancer and singer who appeared in Broadway musicals before his rise to stardom.

Just as Swayze’s career trajectory was transitioning, in a twist of fate, he was diagnosed with cancer that ultimately claimed his life in a tragic blow to his family, friends, and fans. Yet, Patrick put on a firm resistance and gave one of the best performances of his career in his final role in the television series The Beast.

Key Takeaways

  • Patrick Swayze was diagnosed with stage IV advanced pancreatic cancer in January 2008 which eventually claimed his life in September 2009.
  • Prior to his demise, Swayze was hospitalized with pneumonia as a result of a complication arising from his chemotherapy treatment.
  • Swayze’s chain-smoking habit is likely to have caused his pancreatic cancer.

Patrick Swayze died on September 14, 2009, at the age of 57 after battling pancreatic cancer for 20 months

On September 14, 2009, Patrick Swayze breathed his last in Los Angeles after a strenuous battle with cancer. Confirming the actor’s untimely death at 57 years old, his publicist, Annett Wolf, gave a statement to The Associated Press, saying:

“Patrick Swayze passed away peacefully today with family at his side after facing the challenges of his illness for the last 20 months,” reported CNN.

Patrick had been diagnosed with stage IV advanced pancreatic cancer in January 2008 while he was filming the pilot episode of his action/crime drama television series, ‘The Beast’. Due to pancreatic cancer’s high fatality rate, media outlets initially reported on the severity of his diagnosis, and Swayze was rumored to have been left with only a few weeks to live.

However, The Telegraph reported his doctor’s clarification on the matter as Dr. George Fisher, a top cancer specialist at Stanford University in San Francisco where Swayze had been referred, said that the actor had a “very limited amount of the disease” and was recouping after the treatment.

Swayze outlived his grim prognosis and went on to complete the filming of The Beast’s thirteen episodes, convincing the producers to let him work on the series despite his illness.

Nonetheless, in January 2009, he admitted to the presence of fear underneath the tough exterior he put on in a tell-all interview with Barbara Walters, which would later go on to become his very last interview.

“There is a lot of fear here, there is a lot of stuff going on. Yeah, I’m scared, I’m angry, I’m [like] why me? Yeah, I’m all this stuff,” Patrick said.

Before his diagnosis, Swayze recalled the first signs of trouble beginning when drinking champagne felt like “pouring acid on an open wound”. As his indigestion became worse over time, he rapidly lost a huge amount of weight (nearly 20 pounds) in a short span of time and developed jaundice. His wife, Lisa Niemi, described the ordeal of his diagnosis as “being in a nightmare you couldn’t wake up from”.

Shortly before his demise, Swayze had been hospitalized with pneumonia which was a complication of his chemotherapy

As Patrick’s cancer had begun spreading to his liver, he had been undergoing chemotherapy for treatment since surgery was no longer feasible. During the ordeal, he displayed strong willpower to tackle his illness.

“Patrick has a tremendous will to fight and he asked me, “Who am I fighting? I just want to see it and I want to confront it and I want to attack it head-on.” It was very telling of his insistence to get up and fight this disease,” Dr. Fisher told Barbara Walters.

Apart from chemotherapy, Swayze also tried alternative methods of treatment including Chinese herbs.

On January 9, 2009, days after the interview with Walters aired on ABC, Patrick canceled a press event for his series and checked into a hospital after coming down with pneumonia which was a result of a complication of the chemotherapy treatment, People reported.

Patrick was hospitalized for a week with pneumonia and was released from the hospital on January 16 to rest at home with his wife.

The actor retreated from the public eye for the following months and reports emerged that he had been given a terminal diagnosis in April after the cancer had fully metastasized to his liver. According to Salem News, Swayze had been undergoing pioneering CyberKnife radiotherapy at Stanford University Medical Centre during the time.

Swayze said that his chain-smoking habit ‘probably had something to do’ with his pancreatic cancer

For most of his life, Swayze had been a heavy smoker who often went through 60 cigarettes a day. This habit coupled with alcoholism is speculated to have triggered his illness as smoking is known for increasing the likelihood of getting pancreatic cancer.

Patrick Swayze
Patrick Swayze looks thin and drawn as he walks in LA | Barcroft Media

Even while undergoing treatment, he admitted that he was “not a non-smoker” and had not fully quit his chronic smoking though he drastically reduced his intake.

“I will go so far as to say that probably smoking has something to do with my pancreatic cancer,” Patrick told Walters. Although he was aware of the implications of smoking during treatment, he preferred not to discontinue his habit, explaining:

“I’ve got priorities. It’s just I’ve been dealing with one thing as it comes at a time that you know in the order that is trying to kill me. Will stopping smoking now stop anything, change anything? No. But when it looks like I may live longer than five minutes, I’ll drop cigarettes like hot potatoes. Right now, it’s not my priority.”

According to Radar Online, Dr. David Hoffman, Swayze’s oncologist said the actor’s heavy smoking had a “component of self-sabotage”.

In spite of his smoking, Swayze beat the unfavorable odds and statistics by living for nearly two years as pancreatic cancer usually claims lives in just a few months. In his own words, though he did not want to call himself ‘the miracle guy’, Patrick begrudgingly admitted that it was indeed miraculous that he survived so long for “whatever reasons”.