January 6, 2009 / 7:57 PM / 10 years ago

Scared Swayze says may have only 2 years to live

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Actor Patrick Swayze, in his first television interview since being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year, said he was scared, angry and “going through hell” and may only have two years to live.

File photo shows Patrick Swayze and his wife Lisa Niemi in Los Angeles May 23, 2008. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

A year after his diagnosis with one of the most deadly forms of cancer, the “Dirty Dancing” star told TV interviewer Barbara Walters that he already has defied survival rates and reports predicting he should have “been dead a long time.”

But he acknowledged his time may be short. “I’d say five years is pretty wishful thinking. 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 American Cancer Society says pancreatic cancer has only a five percent, five-year survival rate. The majority of patients die within six months.

“You can bet I’m going through hell,” Swayze told Walters in the interview to be broadcast on ABC on Wednesday.

“There’s a lot of fear here ... Yeah, I’m scared. Yeah, I’m angry. Yeah, I’m (asking) why me?” Swayze, 56, told Walters.

But he denied reports he was near death. “Am I dying? Am I giving up? Am I on my death bed? Am I saying goodbye to people? No way.”

Swayze said doctors diagnosed stage 4 pancreatic cancer last January, with the cancer already having spread to his liver.


The actor and dancer underwent an aggressive course of chemotherapy and treatment with an experimental drug. He then stunned the industry by starting to film a new TV detective series “The Beast” while undergoing treatment and without taking pain-killers.

“I think everybody thought I was out of my mind, you know, thinking I’m gonna pull off a TV show,” he said of the 12-hour work days, mostly in cold, Chicago night conditions.

“When you’re shooting you can’t do drugs,” Swayze said of his decision not to take pain-killers. “I can’t do Hydrocodone or Vicodin or these kinds of things that take the edge off of it, ‘cause it takes the edge off of your brain.”

In five months of filming, Swayze missed a day and a half of work. “The Beast” starts airing on the A&E cable TV network on January 15.

Swayze is known around the world for his role as the dance instructor in the 1987 coming of age movie “Dirty Dancing” which inspired hit stage shows in London, Australia and Canada. He went on to star with Demi Moore in 1990 film romance “Ghost.”

Married to wife Niemi for 33 years, Swayze said he was stunned by the outpouring of love from fans since his diagnosis, although he does not want to be a poster-boy for living with cancer.

“I keep dreaming of a future, a future with a long and healthy life, not lived in the shadow of cancer but in the light,” Swayze told Walters.

“What winning is to me, is not giving up, is no matter what’s thrown at me, I can take it. And I can keep going,” he said.

Reporting by Jill Serjeant, Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Sandra Maler

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