WHEN it comes to living with stage four cancer, the phrase “full of beans” isn’t how you would expect someone to describe themselves.
But Olivia Newton-John has never been your average woman – who wasn’t envious of those tight black trousers?
Though when the 71-year-old Grease actress reels off the pills, supplements and formerly illegal substances she takes, you can perhaps begin to see she’s not exactly conforming to the norm.
“I take a lot of herbs and cannabis medicine every day. My husband makes it,” she says. “I also take Amazon herbs, a lot of mushrooms, high doses of vitamin C, a lot of seaweed products, I mix it up!”
It seems to be working as she battles the breast cancer that spread to her spine.
“I am full of beans. Of course I get tired like most of us, but not exceptionally. I have a lot of energy, actually my energy has come back, which is wonderful.”
Olivia believes listening to her body has a big impact. “I’ve always been pretty positive and determined to get well,” she says. “That has always been my focus, how am I going to get through this?
“Of course there are times of fear. I’d be lying if I said I never get scared. I’ve had to train my mind on just getting well and being positive about it.”
She credits a large part of her ongoing recovery to her husband of 11 years, John Easterling.
“He is extraordinary and I feel very blessed to have him in my life. He’s helping me heal,” she says. His expertise around the cannabis he grows on their ranch is rubbing off.
“He grows 22 different strains of cannabis and makes tinctures, which contain CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).
“You need to use the whole plant to get what is called the entourage effect. I have learned a lot from my husband!”
An outspoken advocate for medical cannabis, she says the herbal relief he makes has helped her through the pain. “I am doing so well on it that I want everyone to have access to it,” she says.
Having beaten cancer twice, the actress was diagnosed with the disease for the third time in 2017 after she damaged her shoulder in a car accident in Los Angeles – and a lump developed.
She shrank the tumour using natural and conventional therapies, including diet, an anti-estrogenic pill, immune-boosting IV drip and her husband’s herbal tincture, as well as radiotherapy. But by 2018 the pain was becoming difficult to bear, and she found out the cancer had spread to the base of her spine, causing a fracture.
“I thought I had sciatica,” she says, from her home in California. “John would have to pick me up to get me out of bed. I’d pull myself together and do what I had to do until I just couldn’t.”
She was in Melbourne last year and ended up seeking treatment in her own foundation. She says: “It was fated I’d go to my wonderful Olivia Newton John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre. After healing there for three weeks I came out in a wheelchair.”
A year on and the difference in the star, best known for her role as Sandy in the hit 1978 movie Grease, is clear to see.
Today she will be auctioning off her iconic black outfit to raise funds for the centre. And proving she still looks as good as she did 40 years ago – she can still fit into her old costume.
“I didn’t want to wear them for more than a few minutes as they’re old and fragile and are going to a new owner very soon,” she says laughing.
Her figure is as incredible, but how?
“I’m not on any named diet,” she says. “I have everything in moderation. If I want to have a glass of wine I will. If I want to have ice cream, I will. And I’m feeling really well.”
And in fact she’s delighted to have put weight on.
“I lost over 20lbs after I went into hospital and during the healing period,” she says. “Isn’t it wonderful when a woman can say, ‘I’ve put on weight and I feel good.’?”
Other items she is putting up for sale include the prom dress she wore to the Grease premiere, plus clothing from her tours that date to the 1970s.
She says: “There is a collection of items including my first Volkswagen car, first saddle, pictures I’ve painted, records, gold records and awards.”
Olivia and co-star John Travolta will be reunited in December when they are doing three Meet ‘N’ Grease Movie singalongs in Florida. Just without the trousers… “I’ll be wearing something more age appropriate,” she laughs.
While she looks forward to the coming months, there has been sadness too.
The English-born singer lost her 78-year-old doctor brother Hugh earlier this year. In 2013 their other sibling Rona died from cancer.
“I’ve lost quite a few friends this year. I remember my mother telling me that as you get older, you lose people.
She said that was the most difficult part of ageing.” Although the Grammy Award-winner has had many special times too. Including when she met Abba at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974.
Of her film work, “Dancing with Gene Kelly in Xanadu was incredibly special. And of course to dance with him and John Travolta in Grease in one lifetime was pretty special.”
For all the fame, Olivia considers her family to be her greatest hit. She has a 33-year-old daughter Chloe, a singer and actress, from her marriage to actor Matt Lattanzi. “No question, children are your biggest achievement.”
The star is a country girl, she says. “We live in a pretty remote area, with chickens, miniature horses, a cat and a dog. I love the peace and the quiet.”
She also has a home in Florida and co-owns a healing retreat called Gaia in Australia. As well as raising money for her foundation, it is the benefits of cannabis – and her campaigning for it – that keeps her going.
She says: “I’d like cannabis medicine to be available in many more countries. It’s helping me extraordinarily.”
- Julien’s Auction takes place today. Olivia’s memoir Don’t Stop Believin’ (Simon & Schuster) is available now.
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