Lisa Niemi & Donny Swayze On Patrick Swayze’s Final Days
First Published: May 6, 2010 4:43 PM EDT Credit: Access Hollywood
LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- It’s been eight months since Patrick Swayze lost his battle with pancreatic cancer. This time has not been easy for Patrick’s wife, Lisa Niemi (after 34-years of marriage, she prefers to be known as his wife, not his widow).
Lisa recently sat down with Access Hollywood’s Billy Bush for an exclusive interview, where topic No. 1 was children.
“Any regrets over the years [for] not having kids?” Billy asked.
“Both of us always wanted to have kids,” Lisa said. “Just for whatever reason that’s something that didn’t happen and something that, you know, I have had regrets about. But some things, you just have to live with and be grateful for the things that you do have.”
“You guys discussed adoption, I’m sure, at some point?” Billy asked.
“Yes, yeah,” Lisa confirmed.
“Ever think about it now? Or could you not do it without him?” Billy asked.
“I don’t know if that’s something that would work now and certainly it’s not something I’m gonna remotely… even entertain [as an] idea of for some time,” Lisa said.
Lisa and Patrick met as teenagers in Texas in his mom’s dance studio and were married for 34 years. Lisa, however, isn’t shy when it comes to admitting that theirs was not a fairytale marriage. They even separated for a year when Patrick was drinking heavily.
“You left in the middle of the night. Why did you leave in the middle of the night?” Billy asked.
“Well, sometimes people, they could be irrational and maybe not let you leave,” Lisa explained. “It was the easier way of doing things at that moment. We had some really rough moments but also we got those really fantastic moments because we did stay together.”
“Do you feel his presence each day? Some days?” Billy asked.
“Yes. I have some chimes outside my bedroom and on a windless evening when I take the dogs out for their last walk, they ring,” she said.
“Even though there’s no wind?” Billy asked.
Patrick and Lisa were soul mates in the truest sense of the term.
Lisa was with Patrick during his career climb and she was there, along with Patrick, during his cancer fight. Coping, however, following his death, Lisa says has been difficult.
“It’s been a longer, harder road than I ever imagined and I’m really grateful when I have good days,” Lisa told Billy.
Eight months after Patrick’s passing, Lisa is still adjusting.
“Patrick and I were together for a very long time,” Lisa said. “It’s hard not to feel like there’s a huge hole inside of you because, you know, we were very attached.
“People don’t talk much about the grieving process, so I’m surprised just how difficult it can be,” Lisa added. “Until you’re really there you just don’t have much of an ideal.”
Patrick fought a valiant 20-month battle against pancreatic cancer, even completing a season of the A&E series “The Beast” while in the throws of the disease.
Lisa and Donny Swayze, who bears a striking resemblance to his older brother, were at Patrick’s bedside when he passed.
“Was he fighting to the end? Was there a moment of peace? People would like to know that,” Billy said.
“I think, yeah, there was peace at the end,” Donny said. “But he had been fighting for his life up ‘til, just I mean, ‘til he couldn’t fight any longer.”
“When it was time to go he went, he went very gracefully,” Lisa added.
“Was there a smile on his face, a tear in his eye?” Billy asked.
“He was there with the people he loved around him, yeah,” Lisa said.
“He was just such a force. He had an opinion about everything! He had a strong personality,” Donny added of his brother. “My big brother was just bigger than life.”
As is obvious in some behind-the-scenes footage from the new, “Dirty Dancing: Limited Edition” keepsake DVD, Patrick’s enthusiasm for life and his work could not be contained. And years later, as he fought the disease, that spark had not diminished.
“Actually we were in Chicago and Patrick was doing ‘The Beast’ under chemotherapy,” Lisa said. “One night we cranked the music up, [on a] beautiful starlit night and just had a great time dancing in the kitchen.”
As Patrick’s illness progressed, and cancer was taking its toll, Donny had to assume the role of protector, shielding Patrick from the hurtful headlines and relentless pursuit of photographers.
“To be chased by paparazzi when my brother is sick and nauseous and having to drive erratically to avoid them? They physically hurt my brother and then they emotionally hurt him when they came out with all these pictures that — he didn’t want people to see him that way,” Donny concluded.
For more with Lisa and Donny, tune into Access Hollywood on Thursday, May 6.
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