When actor Patrick Swayze was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in January 2008, he knew he didn’t have long to live. "My husband said, 'I'm a dead man,' " recalls Lisa Niemi Swayze, 54, an author, choreographer, and director in her own right.
Today, a year after Swayze's death at 57, Niemi Swayze is a spokesperson for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, working tirelessly to raise awareness of the disease that kills 37,000 Americans each year. Invoking the memory of her beloved husband of 34 years, she is a public speaker and lends her name to mailings and fund-raising. She’s also working to help pass federal legislation that will funnel more research dollars to pancreatic cancer, which is among the lowest funded of all cancers. Her dream is to see Swayze's name attached to a breakthrough drug for pancreatic cancer. "If his illness and my work have anything to do with a meaningful treatment for this disease, I would consider it the best thing I’ve ever done," she says. "I know Patrick would hold that in higher regard than his entire acting career."