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June 2024
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Remembering Patrick Swayze

Did Chemotherapy Contribute to Swayze’s Death?

Would Patrick Swayze still be alive without chemotherapy?Leave your comments below.

Would Patrick Swayze still be alive without chemotherapy? Leave your comments below.

Patrick Swayze, the man who stole the heart of millions of girls in the 80s and 90s, died this past week.  He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer some 20 months ago, and he fought the disease valiantly until it ultimately took his life.  He was just 57 years old.

In the weeks leading up to his death Sept. 14, radiation and chemotherapy treatment really ramped up in intensity as his conditioned worsened.  For more than a year and a half, though, Swayze never let it get in the way of his work.  Day after day, month after month, he showed no signs of slowing down, granting interview after interview, completing 13 episodes of the A&E drama series The Beast, and bringing greater attention to his disease through telethon appearances and fundraising efforts.

After his death, I asked readers and fans of mine on Facebook to leave some feedback on whether or not they believed chemotherapy hastened his death.  As I suspected, the opinions varied considerably, some suggesting it prolonged his life, others not sure, others convinced that it killed him.

I’m sure many of you have read Suzanne Somers take on Patrick Swayze’s death.  She thinks he would still be alive today if he didn’t use chemotherapy.  To put it mildly, she’s no fan of chemotherapy.

I, too, am no fan of chemotherapy.  As a reader of mine so aptly put it, chemotherapy “reduces the quality of a person’s life,” because not only does it attack cancerous cells, it attacks healthy cells as well.  And while chemotherapy has saved millions of lives—a notion that many holistic practitioners disagree with, in case you’re curious—it’s taken millions of lives as well.  Past studies have shown that chemotherapy treatments likely contributed to as many as 30 percent of cancer-related deaths  and is often misused, which is to say that it’s used when cancer has metastasized so much that its no longer effective.

Suzanne Somers is convinced chemotherapy killed Patrick Swayze.  She has every right to that opinion, and I can understand why she thinks that way.  But as much as I want to believe chemotherapy may have contributed to his death, I’m not 100 percent convinced that it did.

For starters, Swayze smoked all his life.  In fact, he didn’t even stop when he learned he had pancreatic cancer.  He was also known to be somewhat of an alcohol abuser.  That makes for a toxic brew of trouble for anyone, never mind someone with cancer.

Secondly, he was diagnosed with one of the deadliest forms of cancer.  Pancreatic cancer claims an estimated 35,000 lives in the U.S. alone every year.  It is the fourth leading cause of cancer, and while it accounts for two percent of all cancer diagnoses, six percent of all cancer deaths are pancreatic.  That’s a huge disparity!

Finally, Swayze had grade four pancreatic cancer.  Grade four basically means the cancer was already widespread, as opposed to grade one, where the cancer is more centrally located.  So considering the fact that 75 percent of people diagnosed with lower stages of pancreatic cancer die within the first year, and that 98 percent die within five years, it’s amazing he survived as long as he did.

Again, while I wish I could say I knew definitively that chemotherapy killed Swayze, there were too many other contributing factors to know definitively.  In the end, only the deity knows.

All we know is that Swayze was a true legendary talent.  He will forever be remembered for his ability to meld masculinity with sensitivity (as in movies like Ghost and Dirty Dancing), for never taking himself too seriously (as in his skit with Chris Farley as a Chippendale’s dancer on Saturday Night Live) and for remaining a faithful and devoted husband to his wife of 34 years.   May Patrick Swayze rest in peace.


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