Patrick Swayze Fights Cancer With Wife's Support

Actor tells Barbara Walters he and wife renewed vows in "fairy tale" ceremony.

ByABC News
January 5, 2009, 4:19 PM

Jan. 7, 2009 — -- Patrick Swayze has been aggressively fighting stage 4 pancreatic cancer for the last year but said he hasn't let the battle take over his life.

"One thing I'm not gonna do is chase staying alive," Swayze told Barbara Walters in his first interview since the diagnosis last year. "You spend so much time chasing staying alive, you won't live."

The 56-year-old-actor, beloved for his role in the film "Dirty Dancing," said he and wife Lisa Niemi still find time to dance together. And a few months ago, on the spur of the moment, they decided to renew their 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."

In addition to traditional cancer treatments, Swayze has taken some "specific immune system Chinese herbs," but says he hasn't tried many alternative therapies because he learned that if "you feed your body, you feed the insatiable voracious appetite of the cancer."

The chemotherapy did not make Swayze lose his hair. "I kind of lucked out," he said.

Swayze said that in the year since his diagnosis, he had defied the statistics and "trash magazines" that predicted he should have "already been dead a long time," but he acknowledged that time may be running out.

"I'd say five years is pretty wishful thinking," he told Walters. "Two years seems likely if you're going to believe statistics. I want to last until they find a cure, which means I'd better get a fire under it."

The actor said he's waging his battle against cancer "moment to moment."

"When do you decide the fight isn't matching up to your quality of life?" he asked. "So far, I've got potential for a lot of quality of life."

Swayze asked his oncologist, Dr. George Fisher, to describe his cancer so he could visualize the enemy he was fighting. That helped him endure the painful side effects of the chemotherapy, such as "colinitis and seriously inflamed bowels ... when I'd be laying on a bathroom mat curled up ... going, 'You son of a -- you're not gonna beat me.'"

Swayze responded well to his first round of chemotherapy, but as is common, that treatment eventually became less effective, so he recently began a new therapy.

"You can bet that I'm going through hell," Swayze said, but he vowed to keep fighting.

"I'm at the beginning of my battle. And I expect it to be a long hard battle, one that I'm gonna win according to certain rules the rules that the cancer isn't going away. Now, mind you, I keep my heart and my soul and my spirit open to miracles. I pray."