updated 10/30/2009 AT 11:00 AM ET
•originally published 10/30/2009 AT 12:30 PM ET
Patrick Swayze and Lisa Niemi, whose marriage began in their 20s and lasted for 34 years, led one of Hollywood’s storied love affairs – but the Dirty Dancing actor’s widow reveals that there were times when their union teetered to the brink of breakup.
Six years ago, Niemi tells Oprah Winfrey in her first interview since Swayze’s death, her husband descended into a period of heavy drinking and “very dark thoughts. “He was imploding pretty badly,” she said during Friday’s show, so much so that in 2003, Niemi left Swayze for a year. “I didn’t think he was going to live through it and I didn’t want to watch that.”
But the couple reconciled and regained their happiness – only to be tested again when Swayze was diagnosed 22 months ago with pancreatic cancer and was told he had three months to live.