Widow of Late Patrick Swayze, Lisa Niemi Swayze, Opens Up About the Disease That Led to His Death in 2009

Patrick Swayze made a name for himself in the 1980s and 1990s, appearing in films such as The Outsiders (1983), Dirty Dancing (1987), and Ghost (1990) – the latter two films earned him a Golden Globe nomination. By 1991, he was dubbed ‘The Sexiest Man Alive’ by PEOPLE Magazine. 

While Swayze captured the hearts of many with his lead roles in film, there was one heart he captured well before fame was a thing – Lisa Niemi Swayze. The two met in 1970 and ended up marrying one another on June 12, 1975 – Patrick was 23 and Lisa was 18. They stayed married up until Patrick’s death.

In January 2008, Patrick was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer. He began chemotherapy shortly after and was taking an experimental drug, vatalanib. Things seemed to be going well, but things took a turn for the worse in January 2009 when he was hospitalized with pneumonia. He died nine months later. 

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Last week, Lisa Niemi Swayze sat down with TODAY to speak about and remember her late husband, Patrick Swayze – who passed away on September 14, 2009. She still feels his presence to this day and he still plays an enormous role in her day-to-day life – even though she remarried nearly 10 years ago. 

“His voice is in my head. He comments on what I’m doing. When I need a bolstering up or something’s going on, I can ask him in my head, and I hear exactly what he’s saying, which is generally, ‘Come on, girl, get real,’” she told TODAY – adding that she’s not giving up on his fight to cure pancreatic cancer. 

“Just because somebody’s gone doesn’t end your relationship with them. We spent 34 years together, and that’s always going to be a part of my life and who I am,” she continued. “I still care and I know how tough Patrick’s and my journey was with this. Cancer may have taken him, but it didn’t beat him.”

She went on to answer several questions about his diagnosis – including his first symptoms, how they coped with the diagnosis, how they decided to go public with his diagnosis, her advice to caregivers, and her advice to anyone interested in finding love again after losing a spouse unexpectedly to a disease. 

Patrick Swayze Never Stopped Fighting the Disease

Lisa Niemi Swayze knew something was wrong with Patrick Swayze the moment he came up to her one day and asked if his eyes were yellow – the symptom that initially sent them to a doctor. He was sent for a CT scan immediately and results came 24 hours later – an endoscopic procedure verified their concern. 

The couple didn’t know much about pancreatic cancer and Patrick knew his life was in jeopardy, but that wasn’t going to deter them from fighting. “A lot of doctors at that time just said, “Sorry, prepare yourself for the end.” But of course, that wasn’t what we were going to do,” Lisa said in her interview with TODAY

“We called ourselves realistic optimists. There’s always a miracle, always the person who breaks through. I said, ‘Why not you?’” she continued. While his diagnosis took center stage, Lisa says he would’ve preferred to keep it private, but knew his battle would help others that were going through a similar fight. 

As for Lisa’s advice to caregivers? While it’s going to be a natural instinct to care for their loved one, it’s just as important to care for yourself during difficult times. Having someone to talk to about the disease, especially those with a similar battle, also helps – don’t go through it alone, go through it together. 

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Lisa also wants others to remain open to love. “When I fell in love with Albert (DePrisco), I was talking to one of my other widow friends and I said, ‘I love Albert, but it has nothing to do with my love for Patrick. It doesn’t affect that at all.’ Love doesn’t stop just because someone has left this Earth. It’s still there.”

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