Olivia Newton-John's incredible fight - 30-year battle to learning to walk again

Darcy Rafter August 9, 2022
Olivia Newton-John's incredible fight - 30-year battle to learning to walk again
Photo by Paramount Pictures/Fotos International/Getty Images

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Grease star Olivia Newton-John has sadly passed away at the age of 73 after a brave battle with cancer lasting three decades.

Newton-John rose to fame in the late 1970s after portraying Sandy in hit musical comedy film Grease alongside John Travolta.

Let’s take a look at Olivia Newton John’s legacy in tribute to the actress and singer’s life…

Olivia Newton-John’s father was a war hero

Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

Olivia Newton-John was born in Cambridge, England, on September 26, 1948.

Newton-John’s father Brinley was an MI5 officer on the Enigma project, which led to the arrest of Rudolf Hess during the Second World War. Hess was a German politician and leading member of the Nazi Party. After the war, Brinley became headmaster of Cambridgeshire High School for Boys.

The youngest of three children, the family moved to Melbourne, Australia, when Olivia was six. However, she moved back to the UK after school and formed a band with Pat Carroll called Pat and Olivia. After Carroll’s visa expired she returned to Australia while Newton-John pursued a solo career, which went from strength to strength.

Newton-John’s career soared even higher after she starred in Grease in 1978 at the age of 28. Olivia was offered the lead role of Sandy after meeting producer Allan Carr at Helen Reddy’s dinner party. 

Olivia Newton-John’s 30-year battle with breast cancer

Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images

The singer was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992 and Newton-John revealed she received the news on the same weekend her father died of cancer.

Olivia has been open with the public about suffering from the disease, immediately advocating for research into it. After her initial cancer diagnosis, she established the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Research Centre in Melbourne.

More than 20 years after her initial diagnosis, in 2013, doctors discovered cancer in her shoulder too. However, this is something Newton-John decided not to share with family, friends or fans initially.

“The first time I talked about it [but] the second time I thought, ‘I don’t really need to share this’ it’s my life,” she told Australia’s Sunday Night.

“I decided to just keep it to myself.”

In May 2017, Newton-John was on tour but had to postpone the first half of it because of severe back pain. Following tests it was revealed her cancer had returned. A tumour had caused her to suffer a broken sacrum and fractured pelvis. This meant she had to learn to walk again, treating the pain with morphine.

Olivia didn’t want to know ‘how long she had left to live’

During Olivia’s cancer battle she underwent a partial mastectomy, chemotherapy and breast reconstruction, she said. By 2020, she was facing stage 4 metastatic breast cancer.

Interestingly, Newton-John was keen to bring an alternative path of medicine to light using natural ingredients such as herbs and Eastern medicine. She spoke publicly about plant-based treatments and using medical cannabis oral drops. These came from plants her husband, John Easterling, grew at their home in California, where cannabis is legal.

“I really believe the cannabis has made a huge difference,” she explained on 60 Minutes Australia in 2019.

“If I don’t take the drops, I can feel the pain, so I know it’s working.”

However, Newton-John also believed in staying optimistic and the positive effect it had on her healing and recovery process. This is why she never wanted to know how long she had left to live.

Olivia Newton-John passes away at 73

On Monday, August 8, after 30 years of battling cancer, Olivia Newton-John passed away at her Southern California home while surrounded by family.

“Olivia has been a symbol of triumphs and hope for over 30 years sharing her journey with breast cancer,” a statement by her husband on her Facebook page reads.

In the US, contact Cancer Care at 800‑813‑HOPE (4673) or visit this link. You can also call the American Cancer Society on  1-800-227-234 or visit their website.

In the UK you can call Breast Cancer Now free on 0808 800 6000 or visit Cancer Research UK or Macmillan Cancer Support.

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Darcy is an experienced journalist passionate about celebrity culture and entertainment. After gaining a degree in Media and Communications at Goldsmiths University she has also become a social media specialist, always keeping informed on the latest trends. With almost five years of experience in media, her expertise is analysing platforms such as Instagram, Twitter and TikTok. When she's not tracking the latest trending content, she’s watching films and eating lots of chocolate.