Women's Health

Olivia Newton-John's Ongoing Battle with Breast Cancer

Olivia Newton-John's Ongoing Battle with Breast Cancer

Photo: Olivia Newton-John by Eva Rinaldi (flickr)

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Breast cancer, although a scary diagnosis, is not the death sentence that it used to be. Continuing advances in detection and treatment methods have taken breast cancer care to a whole new level. With 1 in 8 women being diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime, any improvement is beneficial. When breast cancer is detected early, at stages 0 or I, patients have an almost 100%

chance of survival. Even with stage III breast cancer the 5-year survival rate is 72% and most of these patients can be treated successfully. When people are diagnosed with breast cancer, their goal is remission. The more time that passes without the disease advancing, the less likely recurrence is, but for many patients the thought that it could come back remains.

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For Olivia Newton-John, she had 25 years of remission before her cancer resurfaced. When she was told that her cancer had come back, her thought was much more calm than one might expect. Olivia says that she thought, “I’ve done it before, I got through this before, and I can do it again.” What prompted her to get checked was the back pain she had been experiencing. She reports that she thought she had sciatica and that this was what was making it difficult for her to walk. She ended up postponing her tour as a result and when the aspirin was not working, she went in to be seen by a healthcare provider. It turns out that the pain she was feeling was actually cancer which had come back.

How she navigates cancer treatment

Like many people who battle breast cancer, Olivia’s treatment plan when she was first diagnosed 25 years ago involved chemotherapy combined with other treatments. When it comes to her health, Olivia has taken a more holistic approach. She uses conventional cancer treatment methods combined with alternative medicine such as massage, yoga, natural supplements, and music therapy. These alternative treatments can not only help her stay healthy but can also help combat some of the daily side effects of chemotherapy. She also was fortunate to have a great support group. Olivia said that her husband John Easterling and daughter Chloe Rose Lattanzi were key components in her healing process.

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Since her initial diagnosis, the actress/singer has done a lot more than just battle cancer. During the process, she has managed to stay positive and get involved with helping other people going through similar situations. That is not to say that she has not been afraid. Despite being determined to defeat breast cancer a second time, Olivia said that of course she was also scared, and that this is a natural feeling for anyone in this position.

However, she made a conscious decision in how she was going to manage the situation. She said, “My positive outlook is a decision. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I have dark moments and negative moments, I’m human. But on a general scale, I tend to see the glass is half full.” Cancer has also taught her a thing or two about herself. As a result of this fight, she has realized just how strong she is. While having a support group and a stellar healthcare team are important, Olivia said that ultimately it was really up to her. Staying positive and believing she could get through it is something that she thinks was a huge part of creating the strength she needed to move forward.

On facts and statistics

There is a plethora of information about breast cancer available. As one of the cancer types that receives the most publicity, there are endless resources for support and education. Knowing the facts and statistics can be empowering for many, but sometimes the prognosis and statistics for an individual’s situation can be plain depressing. Olivia says that this is why she chooses not to read into them and has made the decision to reassure herself that she is going to be fine. She has reached a point of acceptance where she knows that cancer will probably always be a part of her life. Instead of rejecting this, acceptance has enabled her to better care for herself while confronting and fighting the disease.

By getting involved with helping other patients, she is also finding a way to use her own diagnosis in a positive way. After her initial diagnosis she opened the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Center where she helps other individuals and families get through the challenges that a cancer diagnosis brings. This center offers a lot more than just emotional support however. This comprehensive cancer center is a partnership between Austin Hospital and the Olivia Newton-John Research center. As a public hospital, they have a holistic perspective where they focus on their patient’s bodies as well as their minds and spirit. They combine treatment, research, clinical trials, and wellness programs to help patients fight cancer. Rather than just focusing on the conventional cancer treatments designed to stop the disease, the center focuses on making the whole individual well. Olivia says that her experience is what gave her the compassion and drive necessary to understand what cancer patients deal with and to do something to improve the situation for them.

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Her stance and use of medical marijuana

Another component of Olivia’s treatment that she believes has been helpful receives a lot of pushback from many people in the public. While medical marijuana has been proven to improve patient symptoms for a variety of conditions, it is still a taboo treatment method. Nevertheless, Olivia is adamant that this plant helped her heal. Olivia said that, “People have this vision from the ’60s of people just sitting around and getting stoned. It’s not about that. This plant is a healing plant. I think we need to change the vision of what it is because it helped me greatly and it helps with pain and inflammation.” Hopefully in time medical marijuana will become less taboo and more accessible to those who truly could benefit from it.

Despite the roller coaster that a cancer diagnosis can make out of a person’s life, Olivia has managed to stay positive and engaged. She has stayed involved with her career, continuing to sing and tour. While right now her tours are on hold as she deals with the resurfacing of her cancer, she is hopeful that she will be back on the road again in the future. Creating her cancer center and speaking about her experience has been a way for her to find meaning in this frightening time.

By helping others, she has been able to use her diagnosis in a positive way. Additionally, her status as a celebrity has put her in a unique position to talk about cancer and raise awareness. For other breast cancer patients who are looking to do the same, there are countless ways to get involved, and Olivia’s center offers just some of these options. There events that people can attend and fundraising that they can partake in. Additionally, there is the option to give a donation in memory of someone meaningful for those who are in a position to do so. For people who want to volunteer their time, there are options for this as well.

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