My blog yesterday about the miracles of survivorship focused on the happier news about the impact of cancer treatment. The passing of Patrick Swayze reminds us all that the stories too frequently don’t have the ending we would like.
Even acknowledging that grim reminder, there is still much to be celebrated about what this man meant to so many not only as an actor, but as a cancer survivor as well.
Mr. Swayze made no secret about his diagnosis, and made no secret that he was going to do whatever it took to beat his illness. He knew the odds were against him, but that didn’t take away his hope or his resolve to continue living his life.
I didn’t know Mr. Swayze personally, or even much of his reputation. To me, he was a well known actor who had appeared in several highly regarded films. But it soon became apparent that he was more than an actor. He was devoted to his family and his friends. He was a part of his community. There was indeed much strength and meaning behind the celebrity façade. His illness deeply touched those who knew him.
Then there was the battle he fought publicly and privately to live his life. He continued his work as an actor in a television series, despite his illness and the side effects of his chemotherapy.
It is no secret that I was interviewed about Mr. Swayze several times during the early portion of his illness. I distinctly recall one reporter asking for my comments about Mr. Swayze’s continued work. The interview included details of what he was going through on the set while he was filming the television series.
Those details were sad to recount, and they were sad to listen to. The nausea, the pain, the weight loss. This was not the side of Patrick Swayze that was caught by the television cameras or the side that he wanted to present to the public.
My comments to the reporter were not dissimilar to what I wrote yesterday about Mr. Jobs.
Despite his illness, despite his turmoil, despite his personal battle, Mr. Swayze fought to “go on”--not only with the show, but with his life. My comment to the reporter was that as a celebrity, Mr. Swayze was a special person to so many of his fans and others. More importantly, he was a cancer survivor who represented so many who had the same struggles every day, trying to do their best in the most difficult of situations.
When the interview calls continued as his illness progressed, I actually declined to say any more about what he was going through. The need to respond to salacious details about how he dealt with his illness were—in my opinion—beyond what to me were socially acceptable bounds. In the eyes of many, Mr. Swayze was a true icon, and there comes a point when everyone is entitled to some peace in their lives—the paparazzi and the reporters notwithstanding.
Despite his loss, in my mind Patrick Swayze is still an icon and a hero. He is an exemplar for so many patients with cancer, who although they did not know him personally may well have had a close personal bond with his struggle and what he represented to them.
I also know he will be long remembered not only for his acting ability, but who he was as a person, and how he bravely and defiantly kept moving on despite the odds, despite the pain, and despite the inevitability of his fate.
The thoughts and prayers of many are with Mr. Swayze’s family, friends, and legions of fans today as we mourn his loss. But we should also say a prayer of thanks for his being part of our lives—in times that were good, and in times that were not.
May Patrick Swayze’s memory be blessed, and may all of us share the message of the life he so bravely lived during his too short time on this earth.