Patrick Swayze Talks Cancer Battle & Why He’s Still Smoking
First Published: January 6, 2009 4:22 PM EST Credit: ABC
NEW YORK, N.Y. -- He may show a brave face in public and on the set of his new television drama “The Beast,” but Patrick Swayze has admitted his day-to-day battle with pancreatic cancer is scary.
“There’s a lot of fear here,” Patrick told Barbara Walters during a new sit-down interview with the actor and his wife, Lisa Niemi, airing Wednesday on ABC. “There’s a lot of stuff goin’ on. Yeah, I’m scared. Yeah, I’m angry. Yeah, I’m [like], ‘Why me?’ Yeah, I’m all this stuff.”
The star of such Hollywood blockbusters as “Dirty Dancing” and “Ghost” confirmed he is suffering from pancreatic cancer last year. And he told Barbara, the symptoms of the disease hit him at once — on New Year’s Eve 2008.
“I tried to have champagne… and it would be like pouring acid, you know, on an open wound, and then my indigestion issues got gigantic and constant,” he explained. “And then I started thinkin’, ‘I’m gettin’ skinny.’”
Patrick said he “dropped about 20 pounds in the blink of an eye,” something he really noticed when he stared at his reflection.
“When you see it in the mirror, when all of a sudden… pull your eyes down and… the bottom of your eyes go yellow and jaundice sets in — then you know somethin’s wrong,” he said. “I started doing a little research… and started realizing this is not pretty. This is not a good thing.”
Lisa, Patrick’s wife of 33 years, said that her husband’s diagnosis – Stage 4 pancreatic cancer – was one of the toughest things to hear.
“For the first few weeks, it was like being in a nightmare you couldn’t wake up from,” she said.
The actor told Barbara he has been able to battle the disease thanks to a host of what he calls “guardian warriors.”
“I don’t know what’s on the other side. It tests everything I believe in… that here is something unique in all of us that does… not die. I like to believe that I’ve got a lot of guardian warriors sittin’ on my shoulder, including my dad, sayin’, ‘You just let Swayze Dog know, it’s been his turn all this time. You just let us do the work and we’ll finish it for him.’ And so, I’m trying to shut up and… let my angels speak to me and, and tell me what I’m supposed to do.”
One of those things was his role in “The Beast,” which was filmed last July over 12-hour minimum days.
“I think everybody thought I was out of my mind, you know, thinking I’m gonna pull off a TV show,” he said.
Though he’s managed to film “The Beast,” one thing Patrick hasn’t done yet is kick his habit of smoking.
“I’ve seriously cut down,” Patrick told Barbara. “I was one of those dumb ones that started back in the Marlborough Man days whose — you know, it was cool. I’m a cowboy. But I’ll tell you one thing. I will talk so hard core against, against smoking for kids. That’s one reason I’ve never smoked in front of children.”
When asked if he thought his smoking caused his cancer, Patrick said it may have had an effect.
“Ooh, I don’t know… I will go so far as to say probably smoking had something to do with my pancreatic cancer,” he said.
Patrick said one reason he continues to smoke is to lesson his daily battles.
“I’ve got… priorities,” he said. “It’s just I’ve been dealing with one thing as it comes at time, you know… in the… order that it’s 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 a hot potato.”
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