Swayze's Widow: 'I Was Afraid to Leave his Side'

Lisa Niemi is sitting down with Oprah Winfrey for a candid and heartbreaking interview about the actor's final days

Lisa Niemi is sitting down with Oprah Winfrey for a candid and heartbreaking interview about Patrick Swayze's final days.

"I was afraid to leave his side," she admits.

Swayze was 57 when he died on Sept. 14 after a brave battle against pancreatic cancer. "His heart is so strong," Niemi says during Friday's "Oprah." "But it was only so long that his heart was going to keep going."

Take a look at Patrick Swayze's life in photos.

Niemi also opened up to Winfrey about the rocky time in her marriage, when she thought it wouldn't survive Patrick's bout with alcohol and depression in 2003.

"He was imploding pretty badly... It was very difficult. I didn't think he would live through it, frankly," Niemi confesses. "I didn't want to be there to watch him die. Not like that."

Swayze and Niemi first met in 1970 and were married for 34 years.

The actress/dancer has learned from her loss and tells Winfrey, "You realize we don't have anybody for long." She adds, "Every moment of every breath of every day I had with in the past 22 months before he died... every single one of those was special."

This week, Niemi broke her silence for the first time since the loss of her husband at the "Grief, Healing and Resilience" panel during the 2009 Women's Conference in Long Beach, Calif.

Patrick and Lisa's Love Story

Teenage Love

Patrick met Lisa when he was 19 and she was 15. At the time, Lisa was taking dance classes with Patrick’s choreographer mom, Patsy Swayze.

Head Over Heels

Before meeting Lisa, Swayze admitted, “I had been meeting girls with names like Mimi and Angel. And for a long time I didn’t feel like I deserved Lisa.”

Tying the Knot

Swayze and Niemi said “I do” on June 12, 1975. The wedding was held in the backyard of Lisa’s Houston home, and the reception was held at Patrick’s family dance studio.


Patrick’s relationship with Lisa inspired the actor to write “She’s Like the Wind” for the 1987 soundtrack to “Dirty Dancing.”

Johnny Dancer

Patrick and Lisa didn’t appear together onscreen in “Dirty Dancing,” but Swayze routinely practiced his choreography with Lisa at home.

Moving Together

At the World Music Awards in Monte Carlo in 1994, the couple took to the stage for a romantic dance set to an instrumental version of Whitney Houston’s “All the Man That I Need.”

Co-Star Couple

Patrick and Lisa had the opportunity to costar in several projects, including 1987’s action film “Steel Dawn” and 1998’s “Letters from a Killer.”

The Truth Prevails

Honesty was one of the many traits that drew Swayze to Niemi. “She was different than anyone I’d known. Like a flower. If I started my macho stuff, she’d cut me off fast,” Patrick told People magazine in 1984.

In the Director's Chair

Lisa directed Patrick in the April 9, 2009 episode of the A&E show “The Beast,” which Swayze filmed while undergoing chemotherapy.

Business Partners

The couple ran two businesses together — a music business and a wildlife preserve.

Building a Family

The couple hoped to have children together, but it wasn’t meant to be. Lisa suffered a miscarriage in 1990, and afterward “we got so focused on our world and our careers that we missed the boat,” Swayze told People in 2007.


All throughout Patrick’s battle with pancreatic cancer, Lisa was by his side to help him soldier on. From helping him keep track of his medication to flying him to chemo treatments (she’s a registered pilot), Niemi cared for Swayze non-stop throughout his treatment.

By His Side

Lisa was reportedly by Patrick’s side when the actor succumbed to pancreatic cancer at the couple’s ranch on September 14, 2009.

'The Time of My Life'

After learning he was suffering from pancreatic cancer, Patrick began writing a memoir with Lisa titled “The Time of My Life.”

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