Eighty-four-year-old Patsy Swayze wipes tears as she recalls her son, Patrick Swayze, the Ghost and Dirty Dancing star whose inspiring 18-month battle against pancreatic cancer ended with his death at 57 on Sept. 14, 2009. It is the first time Patsy, an award-winning Hollywood choreographer, has spoken publicly of her bottomless grief.
“It’s the worst thing that can happen to a mother — you’re not supposed to outlive your children,” the widowed Patsy, who also lost a daughter, Vicky, to suicide, tells OK!. “He was always so healthy; he’d never had any serious illnesses. We were all just devastated.”
Patrick’s painful decline played out in the media, as a shocked nation watched the disease ravage his magnificent physique. But the actor-dancer defiantly soldiered on. While shooting The Beast, a TV cop drama, in his final months, Patrick worked 12-hour days while undergoing grueling chemotherapy.
‘HE NEVER LOST HOPE ‘
“He never complained, never acted sad,” his mother remembers. “Patrick was convinced he was going to live through it, and he never lost hope.”
But eventually, the rugged actor grew too weak to work, and in his final weeks, Patsy tells OK!, “I sat with him, at home, then in the hospital. He wanted to hold my hand all the time.”
The tears melt away and Patsy’s face lights up when she speaks of Patrick’s boyhood in Houston, where he grew up as one of five children.
Known as Buddy — like his dad, Jesse, a rodeo champ turned engineer — “He was a great kid, very, very energetic, into everything,” she recalls. “He was a wrestler, boxer, runner — sang, played piano.”
And of course, Patrick danced, beginning at age 3.
“He made his mark,” Patsy says of her son. “He was a good person and a lot of people loved him.”
“I was teaching and always took him to the studio,” Patsy tells OK!. “no matter what music played, he danced.”
THE LOVE OF HIS LIFE
It was at the studio that teenage Patrick met one of his mom’s pupils, Lisa Niemi. They wed in 1975.
“She was the love of his life — they were made for each other,” Patsy says. “I was just looking at a picture of them this morning. She was a wonderful daughter-in-law and still is.”
Today, Patsy lives in the house in Simi Valley, Calif., that Patrick and Lisa bought for her 20 years ago. Pictures of her son cover the walls.
“I’m proud of him,” she tells OK!. “He was a good son, he never forgot people.”
But, she says, she can’t watch his films.
“It just hurts too much.”
FOR MORE ON PATSY’S INTERVIEW ON HER SON, PICK UP THE NEW ISSUE OF OK! — ON SALE NOW!