"I am alive and plan to stay that way," the actor, who is battling pancreatic cancer, tells PEOPLE

By Michelle Tauber
January 14, 2009 10:30 AM

Patrick Swayze has a message for anyone who thinks he’s at death’s door: Not so fast.

“I am alive and plan on continuing to stay that way,” the actor, 56, tells PEOPLE in its new cover story.

Hospitalized for pneumonia on Jan. 9, Swayze was forced to cancel his appearance at the Television Critics Associaton press event to promote his new A&E series, The Beast. He says he knew something was wrong earlier that morning when a persistent cough wouldn’t go away.

“It made me suspect there was a possibility of some kind of infection,” he says. “I wanted to jump on it before it turned into a problem. As soon as I got home, I called my doctor and then went straight to the hospital and was immediately put on antibiotics.”

How is he doing now? “I am almost in the clear.”

Amazed Colleagues

The pneumonia is only the latest setback for Swayze, who was diagnosed with stage-four pancreatic cancer – the most advanced stage of the deadly disease – one year ago. And yet the Texas-bred actor has hardly slowed down since his diagnosis, amazing his colleagues on The Beast with his tireless work ethic.

On the series’ Chicago set, “he didn’t want anyone to pamper him,” says consulting producer Michael Dinner. “The only time he would get upset is if he felt the scripts were making it easy on him.”

Now Swayze is focused on getting back on his feet and rejoining his wife of 33 years, Lisa, 52, and their menagerie of horses and dogs.

As Lisa tells PEOPLE, “I admire everything imaginable [about Patrick], especially his courage, strength and humor.”

For much more on this story, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

Read more about Patrick’s heroic battle with pancreatic cancer