Patrick Swayze says chemo was "hell on wheels"

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Patrick Swayze, filming again less than a year after being given a grim diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, described chemotherapy as “hell on wheels” but said work had kept him feeling positive.

Patrick Swayze attends the fan screening of "Mission: Impossible III" at the Grauman's Chinese theatre in Hollywood May 4, 2006. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Swayze, 56, best known for his dance instructor role in the movie “Dirty Dancing,” underwent months of chemotherapy and an experimental drug treatment to beat one of the most virulent forms of cancer, which experts say has only a 5 percent five-year survival rate.

“I do find myself, at the end of the day riding home, sort of catching myself with a smile on my face,” Swayze told The New York Times in his first interview since returning to acting. “I’m proud of what I’m doing.”

After a dramatic weight loss, Swayze has gained 20 pounds by drinking muscle-building shakes and is now working a 12-hour day as the lead actor in a new U.S. television police drama “The Beast.”

“I’m still fine to work, I haven’t changed - oh, I have changed, what am I saying? It’s a battle zone I go through. Chemo, no matter how you cut it, is hell on wheels,” he told the newspaper.

“How do you nurture a positive attitude when all the statistics say you’re a dead man?” Swayze said. “You go to work.”

Swayze was diagnosed in January with pancreatic cancer, sparking a number of news reports that he was near death. At the time, he was about to start shooting episodes of “The Beast” in which he plays a veteran FBI agent.

Texas-born Swayze, who has worked as an actor and dancer on film and TV, said he first thought he was suffering from chronic indigestion. When the symptoms got worse, he went to his doctor, which led to a biopsy and the cancer diagnosis.

“Hello, goodbye, welcome to my world,” he said.

Production of “The Beast” started again in June after television executives consulted with Swayze’s doctors.

Swayze found international fame after starring in “Dirty Dancing” in 1987, which inspired a hit stage show in London, Australia and Canada. He went on to star with Demi Moore in the 1990 romance “Ghost”.

“The Beast” begins airing in January on the A&E channel.

Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte