Besides being someone who always radiated joy and positivity with her presence and her dazzling smile, late actress and singer Olivia Newton-John was also someone who openly spoke of her breast cancer diagnosis and helped millions of women in her position to understand they are not alone in their fight.
Newton-John was first learned of the devastating diagnosis shortly after she released her third hits collection Back to Basics: The Essential Collection 1971–1992. This put her tour on hold and she had partial mastectomy of her right breast in just 24 hours after she learned she had cancer.
Doctors assured her that everything was going to be just fine, but she felt uneasy.
She was aware that she was someone many looked up to so she decided to go public and speak of her battle openly. Having someone as loved and as influential like her open up about cancer helped raise awareness and many praised her for her bravery.
“I draw strength from the millions of women who have faced this challenge successfully,” she said at the time.
Nine months after the surgery and everything that followed, Newton-John became an advocate for breast cancer.
She turned to healthy food and decided to spend millions on a “greenhouse” to boost her battle against cancer.
”When I was told I had cancer I kept asking myself ’Why?’ All I could think was that the cancer could have been brought about by the environment were living in,” Olivia told Sunday Mirror in 1993.
”I kept thinking maybe it was the air we were breathing and the water we were drinking in Los Angeles. I felt hemmed in, there are too many people in LA.”
In an interview with Santa Cruz Sentinel in 1994, Olivia explained that a major part of the healing process was accepting all the support from family, friends, and fans.
“As a woman, it’s sometimes very hard to focus on yourself,” she said. “We’re always focusing on our families, everybody else besides ourselves. We always come last. You know, mother always gets the smallest potato.”
In 2017, Newton-John was told that her cancer returned and this time, it spread to her spine.
“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 Centre in Melbourne, Australia,” she said. It was then that she told the public that she also had cancer in 2013.
“A lot of people see it as a fight and wherever you choose to see it, that’s your prerogative. I see it as part of my… whatever you want to call it. I see it as part of my mission, maybe,” she said.
Newton-John has spent a lot of money on cancer research through her foundation The Olivia Newton-John Foundation.
The actress’s niece, Totti Goldsmith, spoke of the last days of Newton-John’s life and said the family had a hard time watching her health decline. “It’s not a shock, we’ve known how sick she’s been, especially the last five days,” Totti, who lives in Melbourne, told A Current Affair.
She said that she and her aunt spoke through Facetime for one last time. “I told her all the things I needed to say. She was leaving us… but I could feel like she got it,” Totti shared.
“It wasn’t just the cancer that got her, it was other complications, being in a hospital and with a very susceptible immune system. She got secondary infections,” the niece said of Newton-John’s struggles during the last days of her life.
“She was really skinny and really unwell and I said to her, ‘Are you afraid of dying?” Totti recalled.
“She said, ‘Plonker’, which was my nickname, she said, ‘I’m not, I’m not afraid, I’ve done more in my life than I could have ever imagined’.
“She honestly never imagined her life would be how it was.”
Newton-John passed away on August, 8. May she rest in peace.
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Love and Peace