Patrick Swayze knew he was "a dead man" as soon as he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

The late actor's wife-of-34-years, Lisa Niemi, did not know what to expect when doctors broke the news of his illness in March 2008 but her spouse instantly feared the worst.

She said: "I know when he got pancreatic cancer I didn't know much about it. He knew, and his first thought was 'I'm a dead man.'"

However, Lisa admitted even a terminal illness could not prevent her husband - who died in September 2009 at the age of 57 - from returning to work on TV drama 'The Beast'.

She explained: "There was a nurse who said 'Don't you think you've worked hard enough?' He looked at me like, 'How dare she tell me when to stop. '"

Lisa and Patrick never had children together and the actress admits she would have loved to raise a family with the actor.

Speaking on US TV programme 'The Early Show', she said: "Oh I would have loved to have had children, but for whatever reason that wasn't in the cards."

Although Patrick was not optimistic about his chances of recovery after he was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer, Lisa is now spearheading an initiative to find a cure for the disease, which is one of the deadliest forms of the illness.

As a spokeswoman for the Pan-Can Action Network, Lisa said: "It's a merciless deadly disease and it is so severely under-funded it just blows your mind, and that has to change."