Patrick Swayze's battle highlighted love with Lisa, his "soulmate" and wife of 34 years.
Patrick Swayze battled pancreatic cancer for nearly two years before his passing on September 14, 2009.
The Dirty Dancing and Ghost star was a mega-heartthrob to women around the world, but he was well known to have eyes only for one woman: his wife of 34 years, Lisa Niemi.
Patrick and Lisa met in 1970 when Lisa was just 16 years old and Patrick was 20. Lisa was a dance teacher under the instruction of Patrick's mother, and Patrick once commented on their meeting: "I robbed the cradle. All these girls were studying with my mom and I used to go and check them out in their leotards—it was like being in a candy store ... She didn't buy any of my nonsense. We spent half our dates in total silence [because] she wouldn't talk to me if she thought I was putting on an act." He said they lived together and slept together for an entire year before having sex, and that "that wasn't easy."
They married June 12, 1975, just years before Patrick's Hollywood fame would launch. Surrounding Dirty Dancing, Lisa stood by Patrick through a number of box office flops before Ghost catapulted him to fame in 1990. That year he was named People magazine's Sexiest Man Alive but still, Patrick remained grounded and faithful. He told Barbara Walters in their first interview together nearly 20 years ago that Lisa "literally is my creative partner...like we're soulmates...our fights are huge, but our love is huge." This year he told Walters, "I think there's a level of fate and destiny here."
The Swayzes raised horses on their California, Las Vegas and New Mexico ranches and did not have or adopt children, which was a decision Lisa told Barbara Walters this year she regretted. "Life happened," she said, even though raising children together was something they'd once hoped to do.
Patrick was diagnosed with cancer in January 2008. The prognosis looked relatively optimistic, but just months later doctors told Patrick that he was on death's door. He told Barbara Walters for the doctors to scare his family like that so unnecessarily, and to bring the media into it, made him want to tell them to go to hell. He said nobody should be "screwing with the people I love, with my family."
In the Barbara Walters interview earlier this year with Patrick and Lisa, Lisa told Barbara that she was a "tough lady" but that she was weak when it came Patrick. She said her husband's cancer was the one challenge in her whole life that she couldn't face. "This is just not fair, how dare you," she told him. "You gotta stay here!" In May 2008 they renewed their vows, about which Lisa commented, "For everything we've been through, it's one of the happiest things ever." Patrick said Lisa meant more to him than he could say, that he respected her more than any other human and that without her, he might have gotten through the cancer battle, but he wouldn't have done it so "elegantly."
Patrick died September 14, 2009 at his home. His publicist Annett Wolf issued a statement last night saying, "Patrick Swayze passed away peacefully today with family at his side after facing the challenges of his illness for the last 20 months." Lisa told Barbara Walters that she and his brother Donny were at his side when he passed.
Earlier this year Barbara Walters asked Lisa how she will live without Patrick. In a rare moment of choking up, Lisa replied, "That is a really hard question...very difficult...I'm just gonna figure that out when I get there."
Click here for this year's Barbara Walters interview with Patrick Swayze and Lisa Niemi on their love and marriage. We wish Lisa and the rest of Patrick's family healing.
Photo via Bauer-Griffin.