OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN was 44 with no family history of breast cancer when she was diagnosed with the disease in 1992. Twenty years later, Newton-John is cancer-free and helping to educate women about breast health with her own breast self-exam kit and the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Center in Melbourne, Australia (oliviaappeal.com). We spoke with the singer and actress about her personal path to recovery.
How did you realize you had cancer?
I wasn’t feeling well—I was tired all the time—when I discovered a lump in my breast. Even though I had found lumps before that turned out to be benign and my mammogram and needle biopsy didn’t turn up any signs of cancer, I knew something wasn’t right. My doctor suggested we do a surgical biopsy, and that’s how we found the cancer—it was very deep. I’m grateful I listened to my intuition, because the cancer didn’t show in the obvious ways. I don’t say that to scare people, but to encourage them to listen to their bodies.
What role has alternative medicine played in your recovery?
I’ve always been interested in alternative healing, and I was health-conscious long before my diagnosis—I even had a macrobiotic cook in the house. When I found out I had cancer, I decided on a combination of Eastern and Western techniques; this helped me heal body, mind, and spirit. I had surgery and chemotherapy and supplemented those treatments with yoga, meditation, and visualization. I also saw a homeopathic doctor in Los Angeles for acupuncture and herbs and was introduced to Deepak Chopra, who taught me some advanced meditation techniques and mantras specifically designed to help me heal from within. The changes I made have stayed with me—I start my mornings with a seated meditation or a walk in my backyard labyrinth. Having quiet time each day helps me feel balanced.
How has your music helped you heal?
My music has been like a singing journal for me—I get to transfer my emotions to paper and then work through them. My album, Grace and Gratitude, is about finding your inner strength and being thankful every day. Breast cancer has been a blessing in that way—it taught me to appreciate life and made me feel incredibly connected to others and to the planet. Now I feel lucky when I wake up each morning, and that’s a gift.
Olivia Newton-John image via Shutterstock.