Patrick Swayze

Having pancreatic cancer has been like going through a "battle zone," Patrick Swayze said, but that hasn't stopped him from taking it easy.

In his first interview since revealing his diagnosis this past spring, Swayze shared with The New York Times his struggles with the disease as he continues production on his upcoming cop drama The Beast.

"I just love to work hard," he said, before offering a contradictory punctuation. "I'm still fine to work, I haven't changed — oh, I have changed, what am I saying? It's a battle zone I go through. Chemo, no matter how you cut it, is hell on wheels."

The 56-year-old learned he had pancreatic cancer, which has a 5 percent survival rate, in January, after suffering through month-long symptoms. The diagnosis came two weeks after production wrapped on the pilot of The Beast, an A&E series in which Swayze plays an undercover FBI agent, and though the grim news could've marked the end for the show before it even began, Swayze wouldn't allow it.

"How do you nurture a positive attitude when all the statistics say you're a dead man?" he asked. "You go to work."

Ten months later, Swayze is halfway done with the 12-episode first season, premiering in January, and has gained back 20 pounds, thanks to "muscle-building shakes." Still undergoing chemotherapy, Swayze is also on the experimental drug Vatalanib and regularly consults with a team of doctors, who give him the green light to work.

Since production started, the actor has only missed one and a half days of work, and his physicians are encouraged by his progress, as is Swayze himself.

"I do find myself, at the end of the day, riding home sort of catching myself with a smile on my face," he said. "I'm proud of what I'm doing."