"I have no greater respect for any other human being on Earth like I have for her," Swayze said. "Part of me says I couldn't have made it through without her. But, of course, the other part of me says I could have, but not nearly as elegantly as I have."
Swayze said he and Niemi, 53, still found time to dance together and in summer 2008, on the spur of the moment, they renewed their wedding vows.
"We did it very Prince Charming and Snow White. I rode in on a snorting steed, [a] white stallion" Swayze recalled.
"It was like a fairy tale," Niemi said. "One of the happiest days ever."
A smoker for decades, Swayze continued smoking after his cancer was discovered, even though he knew it may have been partially to blame.
"I've been dealing with one thing as it comes at a time, in the order that it's trying to kill me," he said. "Will stopping smoking now stop anything, change anything? No. But, when it looks like I may live longer than five minutes, I'll drop cigarettes like a hot potato. Right now, it's not my priority."
Swayze insisted he didn't want to be the poster boy for living with cancer but, like it or not, his stubborn refusal to let cancer alter his life became an inspiration. He received thousands of letters from around the world offering advice and encouragement.
"The outpouring of love has, has constantly astounded me," Swayze said.
Swayze also said the illness made him think more about the afterlife.
"I don't know what's on the other side," he said. "It tests everything I believe in … that here is something unique in all of us that does not, does not die."
Swayze said he talked to his father, who died before the actor became famous.
"I like to believe that I've got a lot of guardian warriors sitting on my shoulder, including my dad, saying, 'You just let Swayze dog know it's been his turn all this time. You just let us do the work and we'll finish it for him.' And, so, I'm trying to shut up and let my angels speak to me and, and tell me what I'm supposed to do.
"What winning is to me is not giving up, is no matter what's thrown at me, I can take it," Swayze said. "And I can keep going."
For more information about pancreatic cancer, visit:
The Pancreas Center at Columbia University Medical Center
The National Cancer Institute's Pancreas Site