By Barron H. Lerner, MD
When I finished my book on famous patients, the most common question I received was “Are the stories of sick celebrities really relevant to other patients?” My answer was that yes, with some caveats, these experiences are well-worth knowing.
The same can be said for the story of Patrick Swayze’s terminal pancreatic cancer, which has now been told by his widow, actress Lisa Niemi Swayze, in a new book, “Worth Fighting For: Love, Loss and Moving Forward.” Patrick Swayze, a dancer and actor best known for his roles in the films “Dirty Dancing” and “Ghost,” was diagnosed in January 2008 and died of the disease in September 2009 at the age of 57. He was originally told he would live only a few months.
First, the caveats. Like most celebrities, Swayze had the means, as his wife says, to “think outside the box.” He enrolled in a clinical trial at Stanford University, traveling regularly to Palo Alto from Los Angeles for experimental chemotherapy. Swayze also was a VIP patient, getting first-class attention from top doctors and hospital staffs. Most patients experience greater hurdles.
Nor should pancreatic cancer patients who read “Worth Fighting For” assume that they, like Swayze, can [...] continue the story