"In some ways I look at the anniversary and I think, 'It's either going to knock me down or it's going to make me stronger," Niemi says. "And I know I'm stronger now. The fact that I've had some good days definitely gives me hope that I can have more."
As a new spokeswoman for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, Niemi is launching an awareness campaign on this anniversary of Swayze's death. "Be a Hero in the Fight Against Pancreatic Cancer: Know it. Fight it. End it" will feature videos and personal messages from Niemi.
"It's a merciless disease," she says. "If Patrick being sick can help somebody else, it's the highest possible honor I could help him have."
At home on the ranch she shared with Swayze just north of Los Angeles, Niemi said she was considering her own personal ways of celebrating her husband's life. "I'm looking at doing some things like picking out the most beautiful tree ever," she says, "and planting it in an extraordinary spot."
Surrounded by the couple's animals – three dogs, two cats and seven horses – Niemi still feels close to Swayze, especially when she hears the wind chimes on their back porch.
"Sometimes there won't be any wind, so I like to think [it's Patrick]," she says. "I do sense his presence, and I like that. Just because he's gone now doesn't mean that love doesn't go on."