For a lot of people, a cancer diagnosis—especially one that occurs later in life—can be a time to look back retrospectively, and ask those big life questions such as, “Have I done everything I wanted to do?” “Do I have any regrets?” “What experiences have brought me the most joy?”
In a new interview with the Telegraph, Olivia Newton-John, the beloved “Grease” star who is now 70-years-old and dealing with her third breast cancer diagnosis, dove into some of these questions.READ MORE
Newton-John was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992. At the time, she received nine months of chemotherapy and a breast removal surgery, called a mastectomy.
Her cancer then entered remission until 2013, at which time her doctors discovered that her cancer had metastasized (spread) beyond her breasts. She overcame the cancer again, only to see the same happen again in 2017, when her doctors discovered a tumor at the bottom of her spine—another cancer metastasis.
The journey hasn’t been an easy one—or a quick one. But today, Newton-John says she’s doing well. She’s been receiving standard treatment while also turning to complementary treatments such as medical cannabis. Her loving second husband, John Easterling, is an herbalist who founded the Amazon Herb Company, and he supports Newton-John using legally-grown marijuana to help with her cancer-related stress and pain.
“I’m lucky and I take a lot of medicinal cannabis,” Newton-John told the Telegraph. “I’m doing great.”
“Cancer is Not a Death Sentence”
Even though Newton-John’s most recent diagnosis has indicated that her cancer has spread to her bones—meaning it is in an advanced stage—she is eager to dispel rumors that her condition is immediately terminal. This past winter, tabloids inaccurately reported that Newton-John was dying, to which she was quick to respond.
“Those things are so stupid,” she told People in March. “Why not just go, ‘Here I am, and I’m fine!”
Now, Newton-John is emphasizing this message, reminding people that cancer is not a death sentence. “It’s possible that you could get cancer in your life but that doesn’t mean you’ll die of it,” she said. “I think that’s the important thing to know. People have this preconceived notion that cancer is a death sentence, but you can now live with it like a chronic illness.”
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Having said that, Newton-John did admit that when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer, she chose to keep the news from her only daughter, Chloe Lattanzi, who was only six at the time.
“I didn’t tell my daughter when I had breast cancer, because she was very young and she’d lost her best friend to cancer,” Newton-John said. “If I’d told her I had cancer too, she’d have presumed I was going to die as well.”
“I’m Happy and Fulfilling a Purpose.”
During the interview, the Telegraph posed a retrospective question to Newton-John: what would she tell her 10-year-old self if she could go back in time and speak with her?
Newton-John said first and foremost that she would tell her younger self that everything would turn out ok. The star shared that she had moved multiple times as a child and that her parents had gotten divorced—which was challenging for her at the time. But looking back, she said her life panned out alright.
“I think my younger self would just want to know that I’m happy, and fulfilling a purpose,” Newton-John said, adding that, if she showed her younger self “Grease,” “she would love it and have a good laugh. She would have thought that John Travolta was very handsome.”
Newton-John also said that growing up, she didn’t have ambitions of fame. She wanted to be a mounted policewoman instead.
“I wasn’t interested in being a star, and I’ve always believed that fame is fleeting and that there’ll be someone else taking your place tomorrow,” she said. “But I’m grateful for the career I’ve had.”
Her One Regret
Newton-John’s grandfather, Max Born, was a Nobel Prize-winning physicist who left Germany in 1933 to escape Hitler’s persecution of the Jews during the Holocaust. Today, Newton-John told the Telegraph, her one life regret is that she never met him. Her family moved to Australia when she was five, and during the few times she visited Europe while her grandfather was still living, she admitted that she was too busy to meet him.
“I regret that,” she said. “If I could meet my younger self I’d tell her not to let these things slip. It’s something I’ve lived by ever since. If I feel the urge to see someone, I try to make it happen, just in case.”
Enjoying “Just Being”: Keeping it Simple and Embracing Love
Newton-John hasn’t been working for a number of years now, and she told the Telegraph, “I’m really enjoying just being—which is a new experience for me.”
The star, who published a memoir this spring titled, “Don’t Stop Believin’”, is now finding joy in the little things. She was recently seen grocery shopping with her daughter, who is now 33, and she told the Telegraph, “I’m taking care of my animals [two miniature horses and a German shepherd], my hospital [the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre], and my husband [John Easterling, 67, an American businessman and environmentalist].”
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Newton-John and Easterling spend half of their time in Australia and half of their time in California, but in the wake of Newton-John’s cancer diagnosis, the couple has been taking steps to simplify their lives. They recently put two of their homes on the market—their Australian ranch and their California home.
“My younger self would love John, as I do,” she said. “He’s very warm and takes an interest in people. If he met me as a 10-year-old he would show me the plants he’s growing and teach me stuff in a professorly way. If I met that 10-year-old Olivia, we’d go and spend time with the miniature horses.”