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Olivia Newton-John was catapulted to superstardom after playing Sandy Olsson, opposite John Travolta's Danny Zuko, in the 1978 movie musical Grease. More than a decade later, in 1992, the four-time Grammy winner made headlines when she revealed her breast cancer diagnosis at age 43.
Now 70, the British-born singer-actress — who came out with a memoir Don’t Stop Believin’, earlier this year — is managing her third cancer diagnosis. A longtime activist for cancer awareness and research, she’ll be offering up the iconic motorcycle jacket she wore in Grease’s final scene, along with other memorabilia, at a Julien’s Auctions event next month to raise funds for the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre in her childhood hometown of Melbourne, Australia (estimated sale price? $100,000-$200,000).
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We talked to her about her diagnosis and the particular challenges and opportunities it offers someone so prominently in the public eye.
It was cause for celebration because I got there. We're all lucky to get to each birthday because you don't know what's going to happen. You have to relish each day. Age to me is a gift.
When you were first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992, did you have reservations about going public?
I was kind of coerced because the press was going to write some pretty scary things that would frighten my family. So I thought I'd better come out and be open about it in the beginning. It wasn't my plan, but it turned out to be the best thing for me. I didn't have to keep secrets. I was able to talk to other women who were going through the same thing. I found a support system.
When the cancer returned in 2013, why did you decide to keep it quiet?
I didn't want to draw more attention to myself. I was doing a lot of natural therapies. And I was working. I didn't want to draw attention away from what I was doing.
In 2017, you revealed that the cancer had come back and progressed to stage 4. How are you feeling now?
I'm doing really, really well. Last year, I was in my own hospital in Melbourne. I spent my birthday there, and it was beautiful. I finished my radiation, and they wheeled me out and I had a party with my family.
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Are you undergoing treatment now?
I did radiation last year. Now I take estrogen blockers. Apart from that, I do nutrient herbal-based treatments and I take a lot of cannabis. That's been a huge part of my healing. I'm trying to reach out to people and make them realize that cannabis is a healing plant.