Breaking News Patrick Swayze Dies at 57
By Michelle Tauber
Originally posted Monday September 14, 2009 08:05 PM EDT
Patrick Swayze Photo by: Zuma
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Patrick Swayze lost his battle with pancreatic cancer Monday. He was 57.
"Patrick Swayze passed away peacefully today with family at his
side after facing the challenges of his illness for the last 20
months," his rep tells PEOPLE in a statement.
A gifted dancer, a rugged outdoorsman, a romantic leading man
and a loving husband, Swayze was also, as his brother Don put it, "a
warrior" in his cancer fight.
The actor continued working on his A&E series The Beast
even as he underwent chemotherapy – and never lost hope. About his prognosis, he did admit in a Barbara Walters interview that aired in January
, "There's a lot of fear here. Yeah, I'm scared. Yeah, I'm angry. Yeah, I'm [asking], 'Why me?' "
A month before, Swayze had issued a statement
to PEOPLE in regard to speculation about his health, saying that such
questions "cast a negative shadow on the positive and good fight I'm
One of five children raised in Houston,
Texas, by Patsy, a dance teacher, and Jesse, a champion rodeo cowboy,
Swayze grew up dancing in his mom's studio and met his future wife,
Lisa Niemi, when the two teenagers were both students there.
It was the beginning of one of Hollywood's most enduring
romances: Swayze and Niemi, 53, were married 32 years and were "so
inspiring to all of us," says their friend, actress Natasha Richardson.
Over the years, the couple – both pilots who often flew
together and who shared a love of horseback riding and the outdoors –
would see Swayze's career take off. Dirty Dancing and Ghost
After breaking through in 1983's The Outsiders
, he secured a spot in movie romance history with iconic turns in 1987's Dirty Dancing
and 1990's Ghost
. In all his roles, he cited Lisa as an inspiration.
"Lisa and I have built just about every character I've done,"
he told PEOPLE in 2007. "You have to understand, we have an ease. ...
We've been partners for a long time."
It was Lisa who proved a "pillar of strength" during the
trying past year, said her brother-in-law Don. United in their focus to
overcome the awful odds – pancreatic cancer has just a 5 percent
survival rate within five years of diagnosis – the couple maintained a
In fall 2008, he told The New York Times
that although chemo had been "hell on wheels," he refused to quit fighting.
"There is probably that little bird that flies through your
insides and says, 'I sure would like to make a mark in life,'" he said.
"I've made a pretty decent mark so far – nothing to scoff at. But it
does make you think: Wait a minute. There's more I want to do. Lots
more. Get on with it."