The wife of actor Patrick Swayze (1952–2009) shares bittersweet memories of caring for her husband during his battle with cancer.
Although the cover shows the author smiling as she pets a horse, the narrative reveals a much more complex story about the love that sustained a couple through a 34-year marriage. Swayze pulls no punches as she recounts the rocky patches that she navigated with her star husband. In 2003, his drinking became so problematic that she finally left; even after reuniting a year later, the two struggled to recapture their early romance. All that changed, however, when Swayze was diagnosed with cancer in early 2008. Always a devoted partner throughout their many endeavors, the author redirected her energy to arranging top medical care, assisting Swayze during the filming of a TV series and tackling home-nursing responsibilities. With unflagging cheer and the quality of “Sisu” (courage) so esteemed by her Finnish family, she undoubtedly made her husband’s final days as comfortable as possible, and her earnest narrative conveys the deep love that she and her husband shared. Sadly, Swayze began to deteriorate in 2009, succumbing to a barrage of infections that weakened his already compromised immune system and made it impossible to continue chemotherapy. These portions of the book are incredibly painful to read, and the final chapter and epilogue are especially commendable for their refusal to indulge in platitudes: “I wish I had something good, or enlightening, or even remotely encouraging to say about the process of losing someone. But I don’t. There is nothing fun about it, nothing good, nothing hopeful.”
While Swayze’s candor may prove unpalatable for some, her memoir makes a worthy addition to the canon of literature that honestly assesses grief without sentimentalizing it.