Friendship During Cancer
- John Travolta delivered heartfelt remarks during the Academy Awards in-memorandum segment paying tribute to longtime friend and actress Olivia Newton-John.
- Newton-John passed away at age 73 after a brave 30-year battle with metastatic breast cancer, or cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.
- Newton-John’s friendships, like that with Travolta, and her continued support from her family were critical for her cancer journey. Our experts agree that surrounding yourself with supportive people can help in your recovery.
- While there is technically no cure for metastatic breast cancer, there are a wide variety of treatment options, including hormone therapy, chemotherapy, targeted drugs, immunotherapy and a combination of various treatments.
“Each of them left an indelible mark that shared and informed us,” Travolta said, introducing the In Memoriam segment of the show.Read More
John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John’s FriendshipTravolta and Newton-John co-starred in the 1978 musical “Grease” which quickly elevated their Hollywood careers. The duo sang memorable duets including “You’re the One That I Want” and “Summer Nights.” The movie garnered $366 million at the worldwide box office according to Variety. After their “Grease” performance, they remained life-long friends. Travolta wrote an emotional Instagram post following Newton-John’s death last August.
“My dearest Olivia, you made all of our lives so much better. Your impact was incredible. I love you so much…Your Danny, your John!”
In 2018, Travolta and Newton-John recreated their famous dance from “Grease” at the musical’s 40th anniversary screening.
Newton-John’s friendships, like that with Travolta, and her continued support from her family were critical for her cancer journey. Licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Marianna Strongin told SurvivorNet, it’s “important that you surround yourself with individuals who care and support you throughout your treatment,” which she said can be an “arduous chapter.”
Psychiatrist Dr. Lori Plutchik urged cancer patients without a network of support from family and friends to seek a mental health professional for additional support.
Newton-John’s Breast Cancer Journey
Newton-John was one of the most popular celebrities during the 1970s and 1980s. In addition to her iconic “Grease” performance, the British-Australian star performed the 1981 hit single “Physical” which topped the Billboard Hot 100 for 10 weeks according to Billboard.
Her first breast cancer diagnosis in June 1992 after discovering a lump in her breast.
“A subsequent mammogram, ultrasound and a needle biopsy proved negative. But my instinct said it still didn’t feel right, so I had a lumpectomy. I then got the news that it was cancer,” Newton-John told The Daily Mail in a 2010 interview.
After undergoing a partial mastectomy, a breast reconstruction and a year of chemotherapy, the cancer went into remission for several years. However, the cancer later metastasized, spreading from the breast to other parts of the body.
“Among women who are seeking medical attention for breast cancer for the first time, approximately 6-8% have evidence of metastatic breast cancer,” Dr. Kenneth D. Miller, medical oncologist at the Alvin & Lois Lapidus Cancer Institute at Sinai Hospital of Baltimore, told SurvivorNet.
Newton-John’s cancer returned in 2013 and then again in 2017, when it spread to the base of her spine.
Newton-John was among the more than 150,000 women living with metastatic breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Metastasis is the spreading of a disease from one part of the body to another part. The breast cancer spreads through the bloodstream or lymphatic system. Once in other parts of the body, the cancer cells begin to grow as new tumors. Even after breast cancer treatment, if any cancer cells are left behind, they may grow and spread.
“I just decided I wanted to go through it myself,” Newton-John said during a “Today Show” interview in 2019 opting to keep her second diagnosis private.
After her third diagnosis, she decided to go public again as she committed her life to cancer awareness advocacy.
“I’m going to come out and talk about it because I have many friends and families all around the world and I need to let them know I’m okay,” Newton-John said.
Newton-John managed her cancer during her final years using plant-based treatments and cannabis.
“Plants and herbs that my husband has introduced me to … helped strengthen my body,” Newton-John said.
Newton-John’s husband, John Easterling, posted on Facebook announcing her passing on Aug. 8, 2022.
READ MORE: Olivia Newton-John Cancer Journey
Metastatic Breast Cancer
When it comes to breast cancer metastasizing, or spreading, it’s important to be vigilant about changes to other areas of your body — not just the breast.
“Symptoms of recurrent breast cancer can vary significantly because they are related to where in the body the cancer metastases to,” Dr. Miller said.
READ MORE: Metastatic Breast Cancer
“Women who have bone metastases may complain of bone pain. Metastases to the lung may cause shortness of breath. Sometimes a cancer recurrence is detected on a physical exam or with blood tests,” Dr. Miller added
For women with metastatic breast cancer, there is good news: there are treatment options. While there is technically no cure for metastatic breast cancer, there are a wide variety of treatment options used to battle the disease, including hormone therapy, chemotherapy, targeted drugs, immunotherapy and a combination of various treatments.
Late-stage breast cancer is not one disease, but many different diseases — so the options available to different patients vary a great deal. Which treatment doctors recommend will depend on several factors like a woman’s overall health, genetics, the biology of the tumor, and more.
“Fortunately, we have so many new treatments for women with recurrent breast cancer and for many women who look at this as a chronic disease that they can live with—often for many years,” Dr. Miller said.
And with ongoing advancements in treatments and newer options that can dramatically reduce symptoms, there are many reasons to be hopeful.
One major advancement that’s made recent headlines is the reclassification of some advanced breast cancers as HER2 “low.” During an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” SurvivorNet advisor Dr. Elizabeth Comen, an oncologist with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, highlighted an exciting treatment for this new classification of metastatic breast cancer patients.
“One of the most challenging types of cancer to treat is metastatic breast cancer,” Dr. Comen said. “And a new treatment, an FDA approved treatment, called Enhertu or T-DXd is being used to improve the survival of patients with a new classification of metastatic breast cancer called HER2-low metastatic breast cancer,” said Dr. Comen. “So, for anybody watching if they or their loved one has metastatic breast cancer, it’s critical that they ask their doctor, ‘Do I have HER2-low breast cancer and might this be an appropriate treatment for me?”
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