Remembering Patrick Swayze

Photograph: Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

Photograph: Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

I woke this morning to the sad news that Patrick Swayze, an actor who attained iconic status in my teenage years as the star of Dirty Dancing and Ghost, died last night after living with pancreatic cancer for almost two years.

I admired Patrick for many things. Firstly, how he handled his illness, continuing to work and do some of his best acting, as he underwent treatment. He had said that he opted not to use painkillers while making The Beast because they would have taken the edge off his performance, but he never shied away from the fact time might be running out. I usually hestitate to use the phrase “fought his battle bravely”, as I feel it puts unrealistic expectations on cancer patients. We all deal with our cancer in our own way. However, in this instance, Patrick really did show bravery in how he handled cancer.

Secondly, I admired him for the lasting love he shared with his wife, Lisa Niemi, his boyhood sweetheart from Houston, was clear for all to see, and unlike many Hollywood relationships, their marriage stood the test of time. Actor Rob Lowe – who co-starred with Swayze in ’80s films The Outsiders and Young Blood – said he had “lost a brother”. Lowe said: “Patrick lived a thousand lifetimes in one lifetime. “He was an expert dancer, he wrote hit songs, he starred in hit movies, he was an amazing horseman. But the thing I will remember him most for was his amazing love affair with his wife Lisa.”

Reacting to news of his passing, Jennifer Grey, his co-star in Dirty Dancing, said that “Patrick was a rare and beautiful combination of raw masculinity and amazing grace”.

It saddens me to hear of cancer claiming another husband, son and friend. The pictures of Patrick over the past year have been quite harrowing, as his struggle with cancer was etched across his handsome face. Cancer is a cruel disease. Today, for one more time, let’s remember Patrick Swayze in the role which catapulted him to stardom as misunderstood bad boy Johnny Castle in Dirty Dancing in 1987.