Dirty Dancing: Patrick Swayze stars in trailer for 1987 film
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Aged 57, on September 14, 2009, Patrick Swayze died 18 months on from his stage four pancreatic cancer diagnosis. If the tumour was caught earlier, the likelihood of him still being alive today is palpable. The three-time Golden Globe-nominated actor suffered from a disease that is the “fifth biggest cancer killer in the UK”. Leading charity Pancreatic Cancer UK notes: “Pancreatic cancer has the lowest survival of all common cancers.”
In the earliest stages, the disease “often doesn’t cause symptoms”, which is why the survival rate is so shockingly low. Yet, the charity advises people to be aware of the following signs that may come and go:
- Tummy or back pain
- Unexplained weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Jaundice (yellow skin/eyes, and itchy skin)
- Change in bowel habits
If you experience any of these symptoms, Pancreatic Cancer UK advises you to book a doctor’s appointment. While these symptoms can be down to a number of other health ailments, your doctor can do the necessary checks so that, if it is cancer, treatment can begin.
Change in bowel habits
Bouts of constipation and diarrhoea, without an underlying cause, should be investigated. “Pancreatic cancer can also cause pale, oily poo – which is called steatorrhoea,” the charity added. “Poo may be large, smell horrible, float and can be difficult to flush down the toilet. This is caused by fat in the poo. It happens if pancreatic cancer has affected your digestion, so that fat in your food isn’t digested properly.”
Bouts of constipation and diarrhoea, without an underlying cause, should be investigated.
“Pancreatic cancer can also cause pale, oily poo – which is called steatorrhoea,” the charity added.
“Poo may be large, smell horrible, float and can be difficult to flush down the toilet.
“This is caused by fat in the poo. It happens if pancreatic cancer has affected your digestion, so that fat in your food isn’t digested properly.”
When Swayze was alive and aware of his cancer diagnosis, he described the ordeal as “going through hell”. In an interview with broadcast journalist Barbara Walters, Swayze admitted that he was scared for his life. “There’s a lot of fear here,” Swayze said. “There’s a lot of stuff going on. Yeah, I’m scared. Yeah, I’m angry. Yeah, I’m [asking] why me. Yeah, I’m all this stuff.” Swayze recalled the moment he discovered that something wasn’t right with himself, which led to him seeking medical attention.
It was New Year’s Eve, and Swayze was about to celebrate ringing in the New Year with his wife, Lisa Niemi. “I tried to have Champagne,” Swayze said. “And it would be like pouring acid, you know, on an open wound.” Soon his “indigestion issues got gigantic and constant” and Swayze realised he had “dropped about 20 pounds in the blink of an eye”. Swayze explained: “And then when you see it in the mirror, when all of a sudden, you pull your eyes down and the bottom of your eyes go yellow and jaundice sets in.”
In the weeks following his diagnosis, Swayze felt as though he was “in a nightmare you couldn’t wake up from”. For Swayze, surgery to remove the cancer was not an option as it had spread to his liver. If you are struggling with a cancer diagnosis, you can call Cancer Research UK, for free, on 0808 800 4040, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. I Am Patrick Swayze will be airing on Sky Documentaries, 11pm on Tuesday, August 16.
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