1999-2010

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Patrick Swayze's memoir is a tough read


When Patrick Swayze died, Simon & Schuster happened to be planning to publish the memoirs he wrote with his wife Lisa Niemi on September 29th. With the publication date still a "go"-- and with the timing, why wouldn't it be?-- the British tabloids are running excerpts this morning and with lines like "Chemotherapy was hell on wheels," it's brutal, honest and tough going:

FIGHTING cancer has been the most challenging and eye-opening experience I have ever had. It has sent me on an emotional journey deeper than anything I've felt before. Facing your own mortality is the quickest way possible to find out what you're made of. It strips away all the bullshit and exposes every part of you-- your strengths and weaknesses, your sense of self. Your soul.

***
Alot of things go through your head when you're handed a death sentence, starting with: 'Why me? What did I do to deserve this?' I'd been told in January 2008 that I had pancreatic cancer and had only months to live.

In the weeks after diagnosis, I struggled, with my wife Lisa's help, to make sense of what was happening. To counteract the anger and despair, I thought to myself: 'I've had more lifetimes than ten people put together and it's been an amazing ride.'

Then a funny thing happened. I couldn't accept what was going on. I was damned if this disease was going to take me before I was good and ready. I told my doctor: 'Show me where the enemy is and I will fight him.' Since then, that's what I've done, with every ounce of energy I have...

***

The next morning, the surgeon woke us to give me the diagnosis. When he told me I had pancreatic cancer, my first thought was: 'I'm a dead man.'

The only thing I'd ever heard about pancreatic cancer was that it's incurable and it kills you quickly. I stared at him in shock. I had gone in for a simple gastrointestinal procedure, then all of a sudden - surprise! You could be dead before springtime!

Fear sliced through me. What had happened? I had been so excited about the upswing my life was on. Now it seemed like a cruel joke. I couldn't be dying, I had too much to live for. I couldn't face the idea there was a disease inside me that would grow, mutate and kill me. I didn't know where to find the strength to deal with it.

Neither did Lisa. She has always been so strong, so determined and capable. We had been together through so much. But after the surgeon left, she broke down and cried.

She crawled into the hospital bed with me, buried her head in my neck, and said: 'I can't do this, Buddy. I can't do it. You can ask me for anything else, but please don't ask me to do this.' I held her and we wept.

She pulled herself together and has helped me through every aspect of this disease with good humour and boundless love. But at that moment, as she lay sobbing in my arms, I felt alone. I knew I'd have to find a way to fight this thing, but the thought of it exhausted me.

***

Chemotherapy was hell on wheels and it got worse the longer it went on, but I knew if it was a matter of pushing through the pain and discomfort - I could do it.

The cancer also caused trouble with my digestive system, giving me debilitating cramps. I spent many nights curled up in the foetal position on the bathroom floor. I felt nauseated and bloated most of the time. There was one side effect of chemo I'd dreaded, but it didn't happen. I did not lose my hair.

***

It's a fact that Swayze men have never lived to ripe old ages. My father died at 57. My paternal grandfather also died young, and most of my uncles never saw the other side of 40.

In some ways, I've always felt I was living on borrowed time. I've cheated death more times than I can count. There's something in the Swayze makeup that loves risk and God knows I've embraced my share over the years. After I passed the age of 30 with my body and mind still intact, I always felt I'd got away with something.

There are days when I feel determined to live until a cure is found. And there are days when I'm so tired, I don't know how I can keep going. But I have to keep moving forward as if there's a long future for me. As if this is beatable.

I'll be damned if this son of a bitch is going to beat me. It's trying to kill me, but I'm going to return the favour. I have never given up in a fight, starting from that day in junior high when five boys attacked me. And I'm not going to give up now. I have so much to live for. So much I want to accomplish.

It goes on like that, with his wife telling the story of their long relationship as well. Honesty, bravery and dignity from a guy no one had a bad word about.

Click here and here to read more.

1 comment:

Mother of the year said...

I plan to buy the book. I was watching True Hollywood Story, plus Biography on Patrick; both were interesting. While I remember him being in the news/celeb rags, I didn't remember about him almost having his leg amputated above the knee, then had it not cleared up, amputated to the hip.

To say he's cheated death would be accurate from what I saw.

For Patrick to fight so long, I'm hopeful that we're at least a step closer to helping others.

Lisa & family, my condolences to you. I feel that he will be with you every day. All you have to do is open your eyes. May you find comfort in the little signs.