Olivia Newton-John assumed she had beaten her breast cancer back in the ‘90s, but unfortunately it recently returned. Having to fight such a serious illness more than once would be an absolute nightmare for anybody, but Newton-John is determined to remain optimistic. And she has the support of her husband, John Easterling. Easterling has been keeping fans updated about the details of Newton-John’s battle.
Newton-John is most famous, of course, for Grease. She had had a music career beforehand, but Grease made her a household name. And after the movie she decided to take a few ideas from her character, Sandy, and adopt an edgier aesthetic. Songs such as “Physical” followed, and they only served to make her even more famous.
But when she was diagnosed with cancer in 1992, she had to put her career on the back burner. It was an incredibly low time for her – she was diagnosed within days of her father dying, and a close friend was also fighting cancer at the time. She underwent chemotherapy and a modified radical mastectomy, a procedure in which the affected breast is reconstructed immediately.
After her recovery, which took almost a year, she became a loud voice in the fight for breast cancer awareness and research. “When [my daughter] asks me, ‘Am I going to get it because you did?’ I want to be able to tell her, ‘No!’ with absolute confidence,” she told the Susan G. Komen organisation in 1998.
Newton-John’s first husband, Matt Lattanzi, stood by her throughout her first fight with cancer. But the marriage didn’t last, and they divorced in 1995. However, the split was reportedly amicable, especially since both parties had their young daughter Chloe to consider.
In 2008 Newton-John got married again to Easterling, whom she had known for 15 years. They had two ceremonies, one spiritual and one legal, and kept both of them a secret from everyone except Chloe. It marked a new chapter in Newton-John’s life. She and Easterling bought a million-dollar home in Florida and settled down there.
As the years went by, Newton-John continued to be a breast cancer advocate. She helped create a detection device called the Liv Aid, published a cookbook of healthy recipes and even opened a center in Australia – the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Center. In January 2017 she told the Radio Times she was “grateful” to have had cancer, “because without it I would not have done many of the things I have done in my life.”
But just a few months after saying those words, a cruel twist happened in the life of Newton-John. She had been having problems with her back, which she put down to sciatica. But actually, it was a return of the cancer. She was officially diagnosed with it in May, and she knew she would have to fight the difficult battle all over again.
As the news about it spread, Newton-John released a statement to People in June. “I am feeling good and enjoying total support from my family and friends, along with a team of wellness and medical practitioners both here in the U.S. and at my Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Center in Melbourne, Australia.”
But another statement was given to People at the same time, this one from Easterling. “We both have the same unshakable belief that she’s going to have a wonderful success story,” he told the publication. “We’re not trying to be positive. We have an absolute knowingness that we can turn this around.”
They were bold words in the face of cancer, but they seemed to have plenty to back them up. Newton-John was undergoing photon radiation therapy, using other natural wellness therapies to back it up, and was resting every day. Her level of pain, Easterling told People, had “gone from 8 to about a 2.”
It had been pretty bad pain to start off with, though. In September 2017 Newton-John told 60 Minutes what it had been like. “The pain level was really the hardest thing. I was trying to do shows and it was pretty agonizing,” she said. She had used medical marijuana to cope – her husband is actually the founder of a natural remedy company.
Later that month, Newton-John spoke about her battle to Today. “Having it happen again, I thought to myself I’ve done it before. You know, I got through this before and I can do it again,” she said. “I think [that experience] taught me I’m stronger than I thought I was. Because even though you have a team around you and people are helping you, really in the end, it’s up to you.”
One of Newton-John’s “team” was, of course, John. “My husband was there with me. She told the program, “He’s been my rock. He’s just an incredible person. He’s totally confident that I’m fine and I’m going to last a long time… and I’m not going to be one of those statistics. I’m going to be fine.”
As time went on she certainly seemed to live up to those words. Come November 2017 she was touring again, and she spoke to Closer Weekly about how she was doing. “Of course, it was scary,” she said. “But the words that came to my mind were ‘This too shall pass!’ I just had to believe that I was going to be okay.”
Breast cancer is becoming more and more survivable as more work is done to combat it. Of people diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer – where the tumor is small and contained to only the breast – 99 percent now see the cancer go away after five years. And 86 percent of the people diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer also survive.
That’s a huge change, one that’s taken place over the course of less than a century. It wasn’t so long ago that breast cancer was much less survivable, and a bit of a taboo as well. Yet the combined efforts of lots of women – including, of course, Newton-John – helped place it firmly into the public consciousness.
By the early months of 2018, Newton-John was back to making public appearances. In March she appeared at a benefit concert for victims of the California wildfires, and sang some of the most famous Grease songs. “I’ve been great,” she told Entertainment Tonight. “Yeah, I feel really good.”
In May 2018 Newton-John appeared on Today and discussed the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Center. “We’re raising money for research for wellness, to help the patients with all the stresses of going through a cancer journey,” she said. “To have my name above such a beautiful center… it’s the best billboard I ever had.”
“I see ‘cancer’ and ‘wellness’ on the same symbol, and that to me is everything because it gives people hope,” Newton-John continued. “Cancer is not necessarily a death sentence, you can go from cancer to wellness, you can thrive when you’re going through it, as I am living proof.” She certainly is, and she’s done great work.