The actress/dancer details the Dirty Dancing star’s battle with pancreatic cancer in a new book, Worth Fighting For: Love, Loss and Moving Forward.
In one emotional extract from the tome, Niemi reveals doctors told her Swayze had the disease while he was in hospital recovering from a biopsy on the tumour on his pancreas.
Niemi admits she was so shocked by the diagnosis, she decided to keep it to herself as Swayze slept off the anaesthesia – and remembers it as one of the worst nights of her life.
She writes, “Patrick needed an endoscopy and a biopsy on the mass. Afterwards the doctors took me into a nearby private office. ‘He has pancreatic cancer.’ I remember the information kind of freezing in my brain… because it had no reality attached to it.
“Patrick was recovering poorly from the procedure and was still woozy from the anaesthesia. I was trying to get my footing and figure out what the next step was. How do I tell him this news? How can he assimilate information like this when he was incredibly medicated and in pain?
“I decided to wait until morning. What a dreadful night. Living with this horrible knowledge I felt as though I was the one who had crawled into a coffin and closed the lid.”
Niemi goes on to explain how she didn’t have time to break the news softly to her husband, because a doctor got there first.
She adds, “I woke up on the lumpy hospital cot the next morning and a young surgeon was sitting on Patrick’s bed talking to him. Patrick was awake but looking confused. The doctor looked at me. ‘He doesn’t know?’ My stomach turned. ‘I didn’t tell him yet.’
“‘They found you have pancreatic cancer,’ he told Patrick. Patrick looked quickly at me, alarm rising in his eyes. I could see he was taking in this information but he was as stunned as I was. As he told me later, inside he was thinking…’I’m a dead man.'”
Swayze lost his battle with the disease in 2009 aged 57.