Olivia Newton-John’s New Perspective After Cancer Diagnosis
Ever since the release of the 1974 chart-topping single, “I Honestly Love You,” Olivia Newton-John has been a household name. Other hits, including “Have You Never Been Mellow,” “Please, Mr. Please,” soon followed. Her beauty, accent and unique brand of country-flavored pop helped her become a mainstay on the music scene and more. The four-time Grammy winner also appeared on television and in movies, the most iconic being her role in the 1978 film “Grease,” in which she starred with John Travolta. Now, she faces her most serious challenge yet in her fight against cancer.
It was September of last year when Olivia Newton-John announced she was battling cancer for the third time. She was first diagnosed with breast cancer 27 years ago. It returned in 2013. Now, the cancer is back again. Soon after she went public with the news, several tabloids inaccurately reported she was near death.
“I’ll admit, I had a rough year; but it wasn’t anything like that,” she revealed to Growing Bolder.
Newton-John explained that doctors discovered a tumor at the base of her spine, and she was hospitalized for a fractured sacrum.
“I had to learn to walk again and ended up being a patient in my own hospital, which was quite an empowering experience,” she said.
The Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Center in Australia is one of the few facilities in the world to offer leading treatment, wellness programs, clinical trials and breakthrough research, all under one roof. “It makes me feel so proud,” she said, “because it supports each patient — body, mind and spirit — with therapy, music, art, oncological massage, acupuncture, all the things that have helped me on my journey.”
Despite reports to the contrary, Newton-John says she has been doing well.
“I’m strong, I’m back, I’m feeling good and loving every minute of life,” she said.
Many of those moments of life are spent not just on her own cancer fight, but helping others battle as well. She decided to auction off her iconic black outfit from Grease along with other personal clothing and memorabilia to raise funds for her Cancer Research and Wellness Center.
“And I honestly feel wonderful about it, knowing somebody’s going to win these items and others are going to benefit from them,” she said.
Newton-John has maintained a courageous stance throughout her cancer journey in a way that has revealed an inspiring honesty and strength. She believes the key is having the proper perspective.
“I’ve always been a pretty joyful, happy person, so that helps,” she explains. “But something eventually is going to happen to all of us, whether it’s cancer or something falls on your head. You just never know. That said, when you do have a cancer diagnosis, it makes you more aware of things you don’t generally think about. It’s probably made me even more appreciative of everything and so grateful for all the people in my life — the friendships, the love and the gifts that I’ve been given. I honestly feel I am a very lucky person.”
A cancer diagnosis often brings the importance of family to the forefront. And for Newton-John, her relationship with her daughter has been a great source of strength. Recently, the two of them made music history when they became the first mother-daughter combination to have a single hit the top of the charts.
“My daughter, who I adore and who is incredibly talented, came up with the idea to do a disco version of one of my songs, “Magic,”” said Newton-John. “So, after getting permission from my friend John Farrer, who wrote it, she updated the lyrics a bit, we re-recorded it and it became a No. 1 dance record. It was so much fun, and I love her so much that we’ve even talked about doing something else at some point.”
In spite of her health challenges, Newton-John has been quite busy. She recently wrote and published her memoir, “Don’t Stop Believin’”, named after a song she released early in her career.
“I decided to write the book because I heard that an Australian company was making a television movie about my life, and I was not involved in the production at all,” she said. “I wasn’t sure how they were going to tell my story; so I thought, if something is going to be out there, I’d better start writing myself just to be sure people can separate fact from fiction.”
Her book traces her journey through her music and film career, shares a few private details and tells stories about some of the people she met and worked with along the way.
As for her future, all she can do is stay positive and keep living life to the fullest. In fact, if there is a prognosis, she doesn’t really want to know it.
“Sometimes, when doctors give you a timeframe, mentally you can give into that,” she explains. “Psychologically, that wouldn’t do me much good. What does is knowing that I have love in my life, I have a wonderful husband and daughter and I’ve had the most amazing career. What’s to be sad about?”
If there is a takeaway, something she hopes others can learn from everything she’s been through is never forget that life is all about perspective.
“I hate when people dread each coming birthday,” she said. “I feel so lucky to have made it into my 70s. Be grateful for it. Every year, every day and every second is a gift. Every day we learn how fragile life can be, especially when you’ve had cancer three times. Instead, try very hard to live in the moment and appreciate each moment. Don’t dwell on the past or worry too much about the future. Just be here now. That’s all we’ve got. That’s all any of us know we have.”
This article originally appeared in Growing Bolder Magazine. For more great stories like this, click here to subscribe to the digital or print editions of Growing Bolder Magazine. All past issues of GB Magazine, including the one that features this article, are also available to read online exclusively on the GB Portal. Click here to find out how to become a member!