Patrick Swayze’s widow is passionate about ending pancreatic cancer, 11 years after his death: ‘His fight was so heroic’

Patrick Swayze’s widow, Lisa, talks about his fight to beat pancreatic cancer and her work with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) to raise awareness of the disease.

“When Patrick was diagnosed, there were maybe four or five options. We always kept the next option on standby ‘cause the cancer gets wise and the treatment doesn't work anymore. But since then, there've been tremendous advances in molecular profiling that really helps to shortcut what particular treatments will work for you,” Swayze says.

Video Transcript

LISA NIEMI SWAYZE: I lost my wonderful husband Patrick Swayze he could pancreatic cancer more than 10 years ago. He died after a valiant fight just 22 months after diagnosis. I've committed to working with PanCAN to fight for all of those battling pancreatic cancer.

The whole reason why we're sitting down and talking today is about pancreatic cancer. And I'll tell you what, his fight was so heroic. And just because he's gone doesn't mean that fight's over.

Patrick, he hadn't been feeling really well. He'd been having some persistent stomach pain, which, you know, we didn't pay much attention to because he always had kind of a funky stomach, you know? And then one day he walked over to me and he says, hey, do my eyes look yellow? I looked at him. I'm like, yeah, they do.

I said, we've got to get you in to see the doctor. And he said, well, maybe next week. I'm like, no, no, no. Whatever it is, this is not normal.

And we actually called the doctor, said about the yellowness and the jaundice, and he went straight to a CT. It was a grueling 24 hours before we got the results back that it was pancreatic cancer. Of course he went through some other endoscopic procedures to verify that, and that was-- I tell you what. It's the worst day of anybody's life to get that kind of diagnosis with a loved one.

First thing that Pat said to me when it was confirmed that he had pancreatic cancer, he turned to me and he said I'm a dead man because anytime he had ever heard about anybody having pancreatic cancer, you know, they were out of there as far as everyone was concerned.

With pancreatic cancer, it's such a tough disease that you really have to come at it with all guns blazing and thinking outside the box. He worked very hard to get into a clinical trial, which actually he responded really well to, and it's one of the reasons why I had him for another 22 months after diagnosis, which is actually rare because in stage four, typically life expectancy is three to six months.

When Patrick was diagnosed, there were maybe four or five options. We always kept the next option on standby because the cancer gets wise and the treatment doesn't work anymore. But since then, there have been tremendous advances in molecular profiling that really helps to shortcut what particular treatments will work for you.

Patrick's doctor up at Stanford, he's very much a realist and he said, you know, I never thought I'd say this, but I believe that we will come through with some breakthrough treatments in our lifetime. He says, and I didn't think that before.

PanCAN, it's a multifaceted organization. If you're a patient, you can call, get a human being on the phone, and get information about clinical trials, what treatments are out there. They do tremendous grants for researchers. It's like a one-stop shop. They have so many wonderful, inspiring stories from patients, caregivers, researchers. Every day of this month, one of those stories is going to be shared. You can't help but get in there and want to help and lend a helping hand to them.

Hey, honey, what would you say? I think he wants me to do well and be happy, and at the same time, I think he likes it that I'm tough enough to keep fighting. So he'd probably be going OK, sweetheart, you go girl. You get it done.