Actor Patrick Swayze Dies of Pancreatic Cancer

"Dirty Dancing" star fought the disease for 20 months, said he wouldn't quit.

ByABC News
May 20, 2009, 11:24 AM

Sept. 14, 2009— -- Actor Patrick Swayze died today after a 20-month battle with pancreatic cancer, his publicist confirmed to ABC News. He was 57.

"Patrick Swayze passed away peacefully today with family at his side after facing the challenges of his illness for the last 20 months," his publicist, Annett Wolf, said in a statement released Monday evening.

Watch the Barbara Walters Special "Patrick Swayze: Last Dance" Tuesday at 10 pm ET.

Patrick Swayze's wife Lisa Niemi told ABC News' Barbara Walters that she and his brother Donny Swayze were by his side when he died at his ranch on the outskirts of Los Angeles.

Swayze, best known for starring in the blockbuster films "Dirty Dancing" and "Ghost," was diagnosed with cancer in January 2008, but outlived the prognosis of just several months he received.

His "Dirty Dancing" co-star, Jennifer Grey, said Swayze "was a rare and beautiful combination of raw masculinity and amazing grace."

"Gorgeous and strong, he was a real cowboy with a tender heart," she said after learning of his death. "He was fearless and insisted on always doing his own stunts, so it was not surprising to me that the war he waged on his cancer was so courageous and dignified.

"When I think of him, I think of being in his arms when we were kids, dancing, practicing the lift in the freezing lake, having a blast doing this tiny little movie we thought no one would ever see," she said.

His last television interview was in December 2008 with ABC News' Barbara Walters.

Swayze spoke candidly to Walters about his prognosis and vowed to fight his cancer and "keep my heart and my soul and my spirit open to miracles."

"One thing I'm not gonna do is chase staying alive," Swayze said. "You spend so much time chasing staying alive, you won't live."

"He fought the bravest battle and sadly lost," Walters said today. "My heart goes out to his wonderful Lisa, his wife and soulmate for 34 years."

Lisa Niemi said that he had just recently completed the audio version of his memoir entitled "The Time of My Life," in homage to the song he made famous in "Dirty Dancing." The book is scheduled to be released Sept. 29.

From the time he could walk, Swayze, whose mother was a dance instructor and choreographer, took dance lessons in his hometown of Houston.

Swayze's father, on the other hand, was a great outdoorsman, which is where Swayze got his love for horses.

His primary passion growing up was dancing, but eventually Swayze was forced to stop because of injuries and began investing his energy into acting.

He moved to New York and had his first big break in the Broadway musical "Grease" in 1978. His popularity on the Great White Way soon led him to Hollywood, where he appeared in a teenage movie called "Skatetown USA."

Although he was compared to Rudolph Valentino and John Travolta, Swayze decided not to go the route of being a teenage idol. Instead, he chose to pursue films such as "The Outsiders" and the television miniseries "North and South."

Swayze achieved true stardom with the biggest break of his life, starring as the gyrating dance instructor Johnny Castle in 1987's "Dirty Dancing" opposite co-star Jennifer Gray. He earned a Golden Globe nomination for his role, along with a cult-like following of fans.

He received another nomination for his 1990 blockbuster "Ghost," in which he starred alongside Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg. He was named by People magazine as the "Sexiest Man Alive" in 1991.

Moore released this statement upon hearing of Swayze's death, "Patrick you are loved by so many and your light will forever shine in all of our lives. In the words of Sam to Molly. 'It's amazing Molly. The love inside, you take it with you.' I will miss you. Demi."

Swayze continued acting in films, including "Point Break," "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything Julie Newmar" and "Donnie Darko."