Olivia Newton-John: ‘I don't wish cancer on anyone else. But for me, it has been a gift’ (2023)

Olivia Newton-John likes to sing to herself. Over and over, she will repeat, “I’m healthy, I’m strong” to a random melody she has picked up. “I think it’s very important to keep that positive message in your head,” she says cheerfully. “You know, if you have a difficult moment, music is always a great healer.” It is something that has kept her going during her darkest days dealing with stage four breast cancer, the third time she has been diagnosed with the illness in the past 28 years.

Sitting in the kitchen of her ranch near Santa Barbara, California, the singer radiates optimism. Her blond hair is cropped above her chin, colourful glasses perched on her nose. Now 72, she looks much younger – just as she did in 1978 when, at the age of 29, she played the high school student Sandy Olsson in the hit musical Grease.

Since her cancer returned in 2017, Newton-John has been focusing on getting better. In January, she announced that the tumours were shrinking. How is she now? “I’m good, thank you!” she says brightly, her Australian accent still strong even though she has been living in the US for more than 45 years. In 2018, she had to learn to walk all over again after the disease spread and she fractured the base of her spine. “I was so weak. I had a walker, a cane and crutches, but now I’m walking around.”

Olivia Newton-John: ‘I don't wish cancer on anyone else. But for me, it has been a gift’ (1)

For Newton-John, who is normally on the move every few weeks for work, lockdown was a great opportunity to enjoy the simple pleasures of being at home with her family, pets, miniature horses and chickens. The other day, she realised she had been at the ranch long enough to achieve her dream of planting tomatoes, watching them grow and then eating them.

(Video) Olivia Newton-John Last Emotional Video Call With Her Daughter, She Knew Her Time Had Come 😭

The pandemic has also taught her to not let the small things annoy her so much. “I was always fussy about my house being perfect. Then I realised, I’m the person that lives here – it doesn’t matter if there’s a little mess on the floor. I’ve learned to let stuff go a lot more. I feel so lucky that I have a wonderful husband with me and my daughter’s visiting.”

The word “lucky” comes up a lot when you are talking to Newton-John. It crops up when she is describing her career as one of the bestselling musicians of all time, with a string of No 1 hits and four Grammy awards. And there it is again when she talks about being diagnosed with cancer.

“Three times lucky, right?” she smiles warmly. “I’m going to look at it like that. Listen, I think every day is a blessing. You never know when your time is over; we all have a finite amount of time on this planet, and we just need to be grateful for that.” She genuinely sounds as if she means every word.

Newton-John was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992, not long after the death of her father, a former MI5 agent who worked on the Enigma project at Bletchley Park. When it came back in 2013, her older sister, Rona, had just died and Newton-John only found out about the cancer’s recurrence when she was involved in a car accident. Both times she was still shellshocked with grief. The cancer’s return in 2017 was, she says, not unexpected. “It’s been a part of my life for so long. I felt something was wrong. It’s concerning when it comes back, but I thought: ‘I’ll get through it again.’”

Olivia Newton-John: ‘I don't wish cancer on anyone else. But for me, it has been a gift’ (2)

One thing that she says has been a big help – alongside surgery, chemo and radiotherapy – is medical cannabis. She has become an enthusiastic advocate for the drug, after being introduced to it by her husband, John Easterling. He grows the plant in a greenhouse at their ranch as part of his business, the Amazon Herb Company. Her daughter, Chloe (whose father is Newton-John’s first husband, the actor Matt Lattanzi), also owns a marijuana farm in Oregon. “I was nervous of it in the beginning. But I could see the benefits once I started using it. It helps with anxiety, it helps with sleep, it helps with pain.”

(Video) Olivia Newton-John Intense Last Interview 3 Days Before Her Death | Try Not To Cry😭😭

Her belief in the healing power of plants is so strong that she has set up the Olivia Newton-John Foundation to fund research into holistic therapies for cancer. Cancer Research UK warns that there is not enough reliable scientific evidence to use herbal medicine as a treatment for cancer, something the foundation is hoping to challenge in its work. A previous study also found that cancer patients who rely entirely on complementary and alternative therapies have a higher risk of death. Is she not worried some users might eschew conventional medicine entirely? “I’m not telling anyone to do anything,” she insists. “I just want to do the research and find out which things work.”

Newton-John may be seen as an Australian star, but she was born in Cambridge, England. Her mother, Irene, was the daughter of the Nobel prize-winning physicist Max Born, who was good friends with Albert Einstein. Newton-John was six when her family moved to Melbourne, where her father worked as an academic. She was the youngest child; her brother, Hugh, became a doctor while Rona, an actor, was briefly married to her Grease co-star Jeff Conaway.

Newton-John caught the singing bug early on. When she was 14, she formed an all-girl group, called Sol Four, with three of her schoolfriends. Aged 15, she won a trip to England after coming first in a talent contest on the TV show Sing, Sing, Sing. But she was reluctant to go. “My mother dragged me literally by the ear. I didn’t want to leave my boyfriend. At the beginning, I just wanted to leave. But I grew to love England.”

After the move, she took her first steps to stardom with a series of slickly crafted songs that showed off her sweet vocals. In 1974, she represented the UK in the Eurovision song contest with the song Long Live Love, coming in fourth (Abba won that year with Waterloo). Her career really took off, though, when she crossed over into country music and moved to Los Angeles. Labelled the “70s version of Doris Day” by Rolling Stone magazine, and dismissed by critics looking for something more raunchy or cutting-edge, she nonetheless sold truckloads of records.

(Video) Olivia Newton John has the bizarre key to your dating success (tribute) ❤️

Then came Grease. Newton-John was at a dinner party, at singer Helen Reddy’s place, when she met the film’s producer, Allan Carr, who knew straight away that he had found his Sandy. She initially said no, worried that she was too old to play the prim and proper high school student who falls for John Travolta’s swaggering bad boy.

Forty two years on, Grease remains one of the highest-grossing film musicals ever, having taken nearly $400m at the box office. But a debate rumbles on about its theme of a woman becoming more stereotypically sexy in order to bag a man. Rather than a love story, you could see this as a celebration of sexism. “It’s a movie,” Newton-John scoffs. “It’s a story from the 50s where things were different. Everyone forgets that, at the end, he changes for her, too. There’s nothing deep in there about the #MeToo movement. It’s just a girl who loves a guy, and she thinks if she does that, he’ll like her. And he thinks if he does that, she’ll like him. I think that’s pretty real. People do that for each other. It was a fun love story.”

Spurred on by the success of Grease, Newton-John went on to shake off her own clean-cut image with her biggest hit to date, Physical. Originally offered to Tina Turner, the song caused controversy with its suggestive lyrics and risque music video, which featured the star showering at the gym.

This new vampy, assertive persona was short-lived, though, and a few years later Newton-John was back to singing love songs. “I’ve tended to be a good girl,” she admits. “I probably would have gotten into trouble with my dad had I been any different.”

(Video) Olivia Newton-John dies at age 73. She struggled with cancer for 30 years

Her acting CV hasn’t been as prolific as her music. Grease was only her third film role. Her debut came in a 1965 family comedy, Funny Things Happen Down Under. This was followed by 1970 sci-fi musical, Toomorrow, which was a box office disaster. The outrageously kitsch 1980 musical Xanadu was another flop, as Newton-John played a Greek muse zipping around in leg warmers and roller skates, to songs by Electric Light Orchestra. Variety ruled it: “Stupendously bad.” Even her fans could have been forgiven for overlooking the likes of A Mom for Christmas, Score: A Hockey Musical, and Sharknado 5: Global Swarming. Neither she nor Travolta wanted to be involved in Grease 2, the panned sequel that starred Michelle Pfeiffer and Maxwell Caulfield.

Newton-John’s growing interest in plants inspired her to experiment with ayahuasca, a powerful psychedelic brew that is used in the Amazon for healing and spiritual purposes. She took part in a ritual in the Peruvian rainforest when she was 59 with Easterling, then still just a friend. He gave her a tiny splash to taste, just enough to fill the cap of a water bottle. That night she started to feel sick and began hallucinating.

“It did change my life,” she says. “If I hadn’t had that experience, I might not be married to John now. I had the most incredible visions when I was under the influence of it. It was amazing.” The couple returned to the country in 2008 to get married in Cusco.

Olivia Newton-John: ‘I don't wish cancer on anyone else. But for me, it has been a gift’ (3)

In her 2019 autobiography, Don’t Stop Believin’ (named after her 1976 album), Newton-John revealed that she would call on late singers Karen Carpenter and John Denver as her “spirit guides”, and they would offer her reassurance before her concerts. They were close friends of hers before they died. Has anyone else become a spirit guide for her? “Yes, my uncle Gustav, who was an amazing man. I feel he’s there. I mean, all my family, of course: my sister, my mother.”

Whenever something terrible happens, Newton-John likes to remind herself how much she has already weathered. “I’ve been through a lot of different experiences, some painful, some difficult,” she says. These include multiple miscarriages before she had Chloe and an ex-boyfriend, Patrick McDermott, who went missing in 2005 and has never been found. “As you get older, you grow some wisdom,” she says. “You realise that you will get through this and you will survive it. Like the pandemic – these things happen, but life goes on. We will all learn and grow a lot from this. I think there’ll be positive things that come out of it.”

(Video) Olivia Newton-John Reaction Stronger Than Before (WOW?!?) | Empress Reacts

What of her health problems? “I don’t think of myself as sick with cancer,” she says firmly. “I choose not to see it as a fight either because I don’t like war. I don’t like fighting wherever it is – whether it’s outside or an actual war inside my body. I choose not to see it that way. I want to get my body healthy and back in balance. Part of that is your mental attitude to it. If you think: ‘Poor me,’ or ‘I’m sick,’ then you’re going to be sick.”

She is outraged, therefore, that doctors are allowed to predict how long a patient has left to live. She has said before that she prefers not to know. “I don’t believe them anyway. I mean, no one can tell you that.”

Cancer has shaped the person Newton-John has become. It is something that has given her a vocation, even more so than her music. “I don’t know what I would be without it now,” she ponders. “I see it as my life’s journey. It gave me purpose and intention and taught me a lot about compassion.” Having lived much longer than many people expected, she wants to show the world that it’s not a “death sentence”. “It has been a gift. I don’t wish it on anyone else. But for me, it’s been important in my life.”


What stage cancer is Olivia Newton? ›

Her decadeslong fight included a partial mastectomy, chemotherapy and breast reconstruction, Newton-John said. By 2020, she was facing stage 4 metastatic breast cancer, her third bout with the disease since 1992.

What did Olivia Newton-John think of John Travolta? ›

John Travolta was a huge support to Olivia Newton-John as she underwent treatment for breast cancer. Speaking in 2018, Olivia said: “He's been wonderful. He calls and checks up on me."

Why did Olivia Newton-John not date John Travolta? ›

“They weren't acting in that moment, it was like he had his chance and he was going to take it. It was real, it really was.” Newton-John explained that the timing was never right for romance. “We were both with other people when we were filming,” Newton-John said in 2018.

Did Olivia Newton-John have a crush on John Travolta? ›

Olivia Newton-John detailed the fierce attraction she and "Grease" co-star John Travolta had towards each other while filming the iconic film in recently resurfaced excerpts from her 2019 memoir "Don't Stop Believin."

What is metastatic breast cancer survival rate? ›

Metastatic breast cancer causes the vast majority of deaths from the disease. The 5-year survival rate tells you what percent of people live at least 5 years after the cancer is found. Percent means how many out of 100. The 5-year survival rate for women with metastatic breast cancer is 29%.

What are signs of metastatic breast cancer? ›

Symptoms and diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer
  • back, bone, or joint pain that does not go away.
  • difficulty urinating (either incontinence or not being able to go), which can be a sign that the cancer is pinching nerves in your back.
  • numbness or weakness anywhere in your body.
  • a constant dry cough.
15 Aug 2022

How did John Travolta react to Olivia Newton-John's death? ›

John Travolta honored "Grease" costar Olivia Newton-John following her death at 73 years old. "You made all of our lives so much better," he wrote in an Instagram post shared on Monday. Travolta referenced his "Grease" role by signing his caption, "Your Danny, your John!"

Did Olivia and John date in real life? ›

Although John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John had undeniable on-screen chemistry and admitted to feeling sexual tension in real life, the two stars maintain that they have never dated.

How rich is Travolta? ›

John Travolta is an American actor and singer who has a net worth $250 million. Let's talk about some money. Only 2 homes of John Travolta are worth around $25 million. Not only this, he has an aviation state where there is a runway on which his jumbo jet lands.

Are John Travolta and Olivia Newton still friends? ›

John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John met through their roles as Danny Zuko and Sandy Olsson in "Grease," but their real-life friendship went far beyond the hit 1978 musical film. The costars continued to remain close in the years that followed the movie's release.

How much older was Olivia Newton-John then John Travolta? ›

Olivia Newton-John was five years older than John Travolta

Though he was already a screen veteran who had major roles in "Carrie" and "Saturday Night Fever," the actor was just 23 when he filmed the movie.

How old was Travolta when he filmed Grease? ›

'Grease' was a huge hit in 1978 and is still popular today

Travolta was 22 years old during the filming of 'Grease' and Newton-John was 28 at the time the movie was being made.

Who was the youngest actor in Grease? ›

Kelly Ward was the youngest of the main cast members at 20.

Ward was only two or three years older than his character, making for the most realistic portrayal of a high school student among the main cast.

When did John Travolta last see Olivia Newton-John? ›

Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta reunited for an epic Grease sing-along screening event back in 2019, which turned out to be the last time they would return to their roles as Sandy and Danny. This comes after the news that Olivia sadly died yesterday at the age of 73 due to a long cancer battle.

What is the most treatable cancer? ›

Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is more common than any form of cancer. It is also the cancer with the highest survival rate. In fact, if skin cancer is detected early, the survival rate is close to 100 percent, according to the American Academy of Dermatology [4].

What cancer has the lowest survival rate? ›

The cancers with the lowest five-year survival estimates are mesothelioma (7.2%), pancreatic cancer (7.3%) and brain cancer (12.8%). The highest five-year survival estimates are seen in patients with testicular cancer (97%), melanoma of skin (92.3%) and prostate cancer (88%).

Which cancers have the highest survival rate? ›

Here are the five cancers with the best survival rates:
  1. Breast Cancer. Each year, nearly 300,000 American women are diagnosed with breast cancer. ...
  2. Prostate Cancer. Over 220,000 American men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year. ...
  3. Skin Cancer. ...
  4. Thyroid Cancer. ...
  5. Colorectal Cancer.

Where is the first place breast cancer usually spreads? ›

The lymph nodes under your arm are the first place breast cancer is most likely to spread. It might also travel into the tissue surrounding your breast, like in your chest, or it might travel up to your collarbone or lower neck.

Can U feel cancer spreading? ›

When symptoms do occur, what they are like and how often you have them will depend on the size and location of the metastatic tumors. Some common signs of metastatic cancer include: pain and fractures, when cancer has spread to the bone. headache, seizures, or dizziness, when cancer has spread to the brain.

Can blood test detect cancer? ›

Most blood tests aren't used on their own to diagnose cancer. But they can provide clues that may lead your health care team to make the diagnosis. For most types of cancer, a procedure to remove a sample of cells for testing is often needed to be sure.

Did John Travolta comment on Olivia's death? ›

My dearest Olivia, you made all of our lives so much better,” he sweetly wrote alongside a throwback photo of the iconic actress. “Your impact was incredible. I love you so much. We will see you down the road and we will all be together again.

What does John Travolta say about Olivia's death? ›

John Travolta took to social media to pay tribute to Olivia Newton-John, his “Grease” co-star who died Monday at 73 years old. “My dearest Olivia, you made all of our lives so much better,” Travolta wrote in a post. “Your impact was incredible. I love you so much.

How old was Olivia Newton-John in the movie Grease? ›

Does Olivia Newton-John have a partner? ›

Olivia Newton-John

How long was Olivia married to John? ›

Olivia Newton-John was married to John Easterling

At the time of her death, Olivia was married to John Easterling. The couple wed in 2008 and were married for 14 years. They secretly wed in Peru on June 21, 2008 and held another marriage ceremony in Florida on June 30.

How old was Travolta in Saturday Night Fever? ›

Millions of Americans did, however, make it through the film that made a movie star out of 23-year-old John Travolta and propelled the already famous Mr. Gibb, along with his brothers Maurice and Barry, to a level of superstardom rarely achieved before or since.

Who is the world richest actor? ›

In 2022, Jerry Seinfeld is the richest actor in the world with a net worth of $950 million.

How much is Donald Trump worth? ›

How old is Morgan Freeman and what is his net worth? ›

Morgan Freeman is an American narrator, producer, and actor from Memphis. He made his debut as an actor at the age of nine, playing the lead role of a school play. He attended Broad Street High School.
Net Worth:$250 Million
Born:June 1, 1937
Height:1.88 m (6 ft 2 in)
3 more rows
7 Aug 2022

Did Cliff Richard love Olivia Newton-John? ›

Sir Cliff Richard has spoken about his love for friend Olivia Newton-John, following her death at the age of 73. Cliff and Olivia had a close relationship since they first met in the 1970s, and he once said he was in love with her. Writing on Facebook, Cliff said: "I find myself at a loss as to what to say.

Did the cast of Grease stay friends? ›

We've stayed friends ever since.” The pair was joined by Grease director Randal Kleiser as well as castmates Barry Pearl and Didi Conn. These days, some of the movie's stars still continue to act while others have left the business.

Who was Olivia Newton-John's best friend? ›

'I just feel privileged to have known her': Olivia Newton-John's best friend Susan George pays moving tribute to the late Grease star as she recalls their last conversation. Olivia Newton-John's lifelong friend of almost 60 years Susan George has paid a heartfelt tribute to the late actress.

How old was Olivia Newton-John when she had Chloe? ›

Dame Olivia was 38-years-old when pregnant with Chloe, and was closely monitored at the time, before her daughter safely arrived in 1986. During the interview, the Physical singer also spoke about contemplating death, something she thought to be 'extremely personal'.

How rich is Olivia Newton-John? ›

Dame Olivia Newton-John AC DBE was a British actress, singer, author, and producer who had a net worth of $60 million at the time of her death. Olivia Newton-John died on August 8, 2022 at the age of 73.

How old were the Grease cast during filming? ›

When filming began in June 1977, John Travolta was 23, Olivia Newton-John was 28, Stockard Channing was 33, Jeff Conaway was 26, Barry Pearl was 27, Michael Tucci was 31, Kelly Ward was 20, Didi Conn was 25; Jamie Donnelly was 30, and Annette Charles was 29.

What does Sonny say in Italian in Grease? ›

LaTierre. Sonny : [in Italian] Go to Naples, all whores. Principal McGee : Perhaps a session of banging erasers after school would put you on the right track. Sonny : Yes, ma'am.

Where is Rydell High supposed to be Grease? ›

Rydell High is actually three different real Los Angeles high schools. The facade is Venice High School, the interior is Huntington Park High School, and the field is John Marshall High School. Sandy and Danny at the school dance.

What age was Sandy in Grease? ›

Sandy and Danny look closer to their supposed age, but still, one of the things most people don't know about Grease is that Olivia Newton-John turned 29 while playing the 17-year-old Sandy Olsson.

What does Stage 4 breast cancer mean? ›

Stage IV cancers have spread (metastasized) beyond the breast and nearby lymph nodes to other parts of the body. When breast cancer spreads, it most commonly goes to the bones, liver, and lungs. It may also spread to the brain or other organs.

What is a triple negative cancer? ›

The term triple-negative breast cancer refers to the fact that the cancer cells don't have estrogen or progesterone receptors (ER or PR) and also don't make any or too much of the protein called HER2. (The cells test "negative" on all 3 tests.)

What is cancer of the sacrum? ›

Chordoma is a slow growing cancer of tissue found inside the spine. Chordoma can happen anywhere along the spine. It is most often found near the tailbone (called a sacral tumor) or where the spine meets the skull (called a clival tumor). Chordoma is also called notochordal sarcoma.

How is Shannen Doherty doing with her cancer? ›

For Shannen Doherty, it's important to be “as honest as possible” as she continues her fight against cancer. The actress battled breast cancer between March 2015 and April 2017, and she revealed in February 2020 that the illness had returned. “It's going to come out in a matter of days or a week that — I'm stage IV.

Does anyone survive Stage 4 breast cancer? ›

Between 20 and 30 percent of women with early stage breast cancer go on to develop metastatic disease. While treatable, metastatic breast cancer (MBC) cannot be cured. The five-year survival rate for stage 4 breast cancer is 22 percent; median survival is three years.

Can you live 10 years with Stage 4 breast cancer? ›

Being a long term survivor is usually defined as living five or more years beyond a diagnosis of stage 4 breast cancer. Living 10 or more years isn't unheard of, and the 10-year survival rate for primary or "de novo" metastatic breast cancer is around 13%.

Do people survive Stage 4 cancer? ›

Although the overall prognosis may be poor based on cases with previous patients and older treatments, many patients with stage 4 cancer can live for years. A few factors to keep in mind: Many treatments are available to help fight cancer.

What are the 5 warning signs of breast cancer? ›

What Are the Symptoms of Breast Cancer?
  • New lump in the breast or underarm (armpit).
  • Thickening or swelling of part of the breast.
  • Irritation or dimpling of breast skin.
  • Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast.
  • Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area.

Do all breast cancers require chemo? ›

Not all women with breast cancer will need chemo, but there are several situations in which chemo may be recommended.

Which breast cancer has the best prognosis? ›

Non-invasive (stage 0) and early-stage invasive breast cancers (stages I and II) have a better prognosis than later stage cancers (stages III and IV). Breast cancer that's only in the breast and has not spread to the lymph nodes has a better prognosis than breast cancer that's spread to the lymph nodes.

What does back pain from cancer feel like? ›

When back pain is caused by a cancerous spinal tumor, it typically: Starts gradually and worsens over time. Does not improve with rest and may intensify at night. Flares up as a sharp or shock-like pain in the upper or lower back, which may also go into the legs, chest, or elsewhere in the body.

Can you have cancer without knowing it? ›

Sometimes, a cancer diagnosis comes out of the blue, with no symptoms at all. But more often, there are various symptoms that may be warning signs of the disease.

What is the survival rate for bone metastases? ›

Lung cancer had the lowest 1-year survival rate after bone metastasis (10 percent). Breast cancer had the highest 1-year survival rate after bone metastasis (51 percent).
Survival rates of bone metastases.
Type of cancerPercent of cases that metastasize after 5 years5-year survival rate after metastasis
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18 Dec 2018

What kind of cancer did Julia Louis Dreyfus have? ›

Louis-Dreyfus went public with the news that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2017. Just over a year later, and after undergoing a double mastectomy and six grueling rounds of chemotherapy, she announced that she was cancer-free.

Is Stage 4 cancer a terminal? ›

Is stage 4 cancer always terminal? Stage 4 cancer is not always terminal. It is usually advanced and requires more aggressive treatment. Terminal cancer refers to cancer that is not curable and eventually results in death.

What type of cancer did Kylie Minogue have? ›

Minogue was 36 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer on 17 May 2005. Four days later she had surgery and soon after she started chemotherapy, an experience she later likened to “experiencing a nuclear bomb”.


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