Patrick Swayze's Wife, Lisa Niemi: 'Lucky to Have Had Him'

Lisa Niemi on cancer battle, grief and the ups and downs of their marriage.

ByABC News via logo
November 2, 2009, 4:36 PM

Nov. 3, 2009— -- In September, actor Patrick Swayze died at age 57 after a 22-month battle with pancreatic cancer. He beat the odds, outliving his initial prognosis by more than a year and a half. He also beat Hollywood's odds as part of one of the entertainment industry's most enduring marriages.

Swayze did all those things and more with a formidable ally in his corner -- his life-long love, Lisa Niemi. The couple wrote about that love story in their new book, "The Time of My Life."

"I'm a lucky woman to have had him," Niemi told "Good Morning America" co-anchor Robin Roberts today. "We've had an incredible life together, and we got to really see that."

"I'm hanging in there," Niemi said, adding that she's still "riding that wave" of grief. "When I'm good, I'm good ... but I forget that two hours earlier I was dissolved on the floor."

Niemi said she and Swayze were "optimist realists" in the face of incurable cancer. "There's a reason that people go through all these treatments," she said. "There is going to be that first person that makes it."

Writing the book, which addresses Swayze's illness only in the final chapter and doesn't cover his death, helped the couple remember all the happy times they shared, Niemi said.

"The Time of My Life" focuses on the life and career of the actor who leaped into audience's lives and hearts in 1987 as Johnny Castle in "Dirty Dancing."

It was an overnight success, a in the making for a lifetime, beginning when Swayze was a child in his mother's dance studio in Houston.

The oldest boy in a family of five children, Swayze grew up dancing and admittedly loved showing off for the girls at the studio. Then Niemi came into his life. Swayze wrote in the book that "I was there when a particular 15-year-old girl with long blond hair started showing up."

The young dancer knew Swayze's reputation as a Casanova, and kept her distance.

"I was still intrigued by this mysterious, beautiful girl, but she acted as cool as ever to me," Swayze wrote. "But then came the moment we first danced together on stage. And suddenly, everything changed."