The Time of My Life

Patrick Swayze and Lisa Niemi Swayze

Depending on your perspective, THE TIME OF MY LIFE will read
like a biography or a swashbuckling adventure story. We all
know Patrick Swayze as a dancer and an actor, but few realize that
he was a horseman, pilot and daredevil. In this memoir, his life
story is presented with somber pathos juxtaposed with a sense of
humor that was true to Swayze himself.

Swayze’s story begins when he was young. His aptitude for
dancing (which he learned from his mother) and the arts eventually
led him to seek a career in acting. But stardom is rarely bestowed
immediately, and Swayze was no exception to this rule.
Nevertheless, after a rocky start in Hollywood, he managed to land
some great roles and was awarded the opportunity to work with such
up-and-coming talents as Tom Cruise, Charlie Sheen and Rob Lowe, as
well as many other big or soon-to-be-big names. One of my favorite
parts of the book is reading about all the practical jokes that the
actors would play on one another, which gives the reader a sense
that they truly loved what they were doing and enjoyed each
other’s company.

Although he was beginning to make a name for himself, Swayze
wouldn’t hit it big until the release of Dirty
in 1987, which went on to be one of the highest
grossing movies of the year. In 1990, he again proved his star
power with Ghost, which earned more than double the total
of Dirty Dancing. While he was riding high, the rigors of
acting took its toll, and he ended up in a rehab hospital for
alcohol abuse. At this time, he had taken on a new adventure:
flying airplanes. “I had wanted to be a pilot all my life,
and I decided to start taking flying lessons. When you fly an
airplane, you’re taking on all kinds of responsibility, so
there is no room for wallowing in alcohol or allowing your demons
to get the better of you.” He made a choice, and from that
point on, he knew he couldn’t let alcohol encumber him any

Although he cleaned himself up, Swayze’s life was still
marred with guilt and tragedy when his sister, Vicky, committed
suicide in 1994. Bipolar, Vicky wasn’t able to keep
life’s ups and downs in balance and decided that death was
her only way out. It was a terrible blow to Swayze, and he often
wondered if he had done enough to save her or if there was any way
he could’ve prevented her untimely death. But he knew that he
had to soldier on and fight through the pain.

And that’s what he did his whole life: fight. For as long
as anyone could remember, Swayze had been a fighter --- not in a
territorial, pugilistic sense, but as a man who would do what it
takes to survive. His mantra was “You can’t beat
me.” When he received the news that he had been stricken with
stage IV pancreatic cancer, he was faced with the biggest fight of
his life. And he did not let it beat him. He continued to act, ride
his beloved horses and live a full life with his beautiful
screenwriter-director wife, Lisa Niemi. “I wasn’t
ready to go, and I was damned if this disease was going to take me
before I was good and ready.” He had to go on living, for if
he hadn’t, the cancer would have won. Even though it ended up
taking his life, it never took away his spirit.

As a pancreatic cancer survivor, I understand the struggles that
Swayze faced. The medications, treatments and procedures that are
meant to help you survive longer can make you feel like throwing in
the towel. Your outlook on life and the love and support of friends
and family are the only things that help you get through each day.
Each page of this book is filled with Swayze’s passion for
life, and hopefully it will inspire you to go out and live your own
life to the fullest.

Reviewed by Marge Fletcher on January 23, 2011

The Time of My Life
Patrick Swayze and Lisa Niemi Swayze

  • Publication Date: September 29, 2009
  • Genres: Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 247 pages
  • Publisher: Atria
  • ISBN-10: 1439158584
  • ISBN-13: 9781439158586