Olivia Newton-John's 30-Year Cancer Journey: Inside Her Work to Champion Cancer Research and Wellness – PEOPLE
Vanessa Etienne is an Emerging Content Writer-Reporter for PEOPLE. Prior to joining in April 2021, she served as a reporter for Men's Health Magazine and BET Digital after freelancing for publications such as The New York Times and Everyday Health. Originally from northern Virginia, Vanessa is a proud Haitian American with a love for R&B music and mental health topics. She graduated from North Carolina State University with a bachelor's in Communication and Public Relations before earning her master's degree in Journalism from the City University of New York.
Olivia Newton-John was an outspoken advocate for breast cancer research and both traditional and holistic treatments before her death at age 73.
The Grease star was first diagnosed with cancer in 1992 and underwent a partial mastectomy, nine months of chemotherapy and a breast reconstruction. She later privately overcame the disease again in 2013.
In the years following her 1992 diagnosis, Newton-John became an advocate for early detection and research and eventually raised funds to build the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre in Melbourne, Australia.
The “comprehensive cancer center” treats cancer and also conducts research and clinical trials. “A public hospital with a difference . . . we are put our patients at the heart of everything we do,” says the center’s web site. “This includes focusing on their minds and spirits and not just on their bodies.”
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In May 2017, Newton-John was told cancer had metastasized and spread to her bones. At the time, her team said the star would be completing photon radiation therapy.
RELATED VIDEO: Olivia Newton-John Dead at 73: The Star and 'Grease' Icon Dies of Breast Cancer
In addition to conventional medical treatments, the pop icon turned to "plant medicine" during her breast cancer journey.
"Olivia has been a symbol of triumphs and hope for over 30 years sharing her journey with breast cancer," her husband, John Easterling, said in a statement on Monday. "Her healing inspiration and pioneering experience with plant medicine continues with the Olivia Newton-John Foundation Fund, dedicated to researching plant medicine and cancer."
In 2017, the pop icon told Today in 2017 that she used medical marijuana to treat her pain.
"People have this vision from the '60s of people just sitting around and getting stoned," she said. "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."
She also relied on spiritual meditation. "In my meditations, I visualize it leaving and see the herbs and the medicines that I'm taking making it go," Newton-John told 60 Minutes Australia in 2019.
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