Patrick Swayze defined career, cancer on own terms

The death of actor Patrick Swayze is notable on two fronts.

From an entertainment standpoint, Swayze was one of the defining figures of 1980s pop culture. It’s hard to imagine anyone who paid any attention to pop culture in the decade not take notice of Swayze’s talent regardless if you enjoy dancing and are very good at it or have two left feet like myself. It’s also poignant with the recent death of filmmaker John Hughes, who directed ’80s classics such as “Sixteen Candles,” “Pretty in Pink,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “The Breakfast Club.”

Dirty Dancing” was perhaps the cornerstone teen/young adult date movie of the decade. The athleticism Swayze displayed was remarkable even if the NFL or WWE is your sports-watching niche.

He went on to star most notably in the heavily spiritual ‘Ghost” opposite Whoopi Goldberg which solidified him as a fan favorite even if critical acclaim was at times fleeting. On a humorous note, the old Saturday Night Live skit of “Hans and Franz” identifying Swayze as their “favorite non-Arnold (Schwarzenegger) actor” is still a classic, albeit a second-hand reference.

The other part of Swyaze’s death worth honoring is his brief battle with pancreatic cancer. Eschewing experimental treatments, Swayze dove head-first into a return to acting, outlived his initial prognosis and did what he could to gain satisfaction rather than letting the disease define him. That willingness and ability to make the most out of life when you know you’re on borrowed time is admirable apart from any stardom.


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