Patrick Swayze has always been a fighter on the big screen. Now he's proving his warrior worth in real life.
Speaking out in detail about his battle with pancreatic cancer, the 56-year-old actor tells Barbara Walters of his daily struggles, including his insistence not to take pain medication while filming his new A&E crime drama, The Beast, premiering next week.
"I've never been one to run from a challenge," Swayze said during the interview, which airs Wednesday and was excerpted today on ABCNews.com. "You can bet that I'm going through hell. And I've only seen the beginning of it."
While again refuting tabloid rumors that he's on his deathbed, the Ghost star admitted the cancer has generated "a lot of fear," particularly after learning it had spread to his liver, and acknowledged that may only have a couple years to live.
"I'd say five years is pretty wishful thinking. Two years seems likely if you're going to believe statistics.
"I want to last until they find a cure, which means I'd better get a fire under it.
He added: "Yeah, I'm scared. Yeah, I'm angry. Yeah, I'm [asking], 'Why me?' "
Swayze, looking lean but still fit, also opened up about the moment he first discovered he had the cancer; it was one year ago on New Year's Eve.
"I tried to have champagne, and it would be like pouring acid, you know, on an open wound," he said. "My indigestion issues got gigantic and constant. And then I started thinking, I'm getting skinny. I dropped about 20 pounds in the blink of an eye. And then when you see it in the mirror, when all of a sudden, you pull your eyes down and the bottom of your eyes go yellow and jaundice sets in—then you know something's wrong."
The former Dirty Dancer also talked about the agony of chemotherapy treatments during The Beast's five-month shoot, which ended up bringing added intensity to his role as an undercover FBI agent.
"When you're shooting, you can't do drugs," Swayze said. "I can't do hydrocodone or Vicodin or these kinds of things that take the edge off of it, 'cause it takes the edge off of your brain."
As it stands now, Swayze has sworn off the chemo in favor of a new treatment.
"What winning is to me is not giving up, is no matter what's thrown at me, I can take it," Swayze said. "And I can keep going."