Olivia Newton-John, longtime cancer 'thriver,' on losing friend Kelly Preston and finding comfort in cannabis

Beth Greenfield
·Senior Editor
·3 min read

Olivia Newton-John is a three-time breast cancer “thriver” currently living with metastatic breast cancer — meaning it has spread to other sites or organs (in her case, her lower back, or sacrum) — since 2017. So, the singer-actress-turned-advocate knows quite well how cancer treatments, particularly chemotherapy and radiation, which she has endured, can often feel way more punishing than cancer itself.

It’s why the Australian icon just announced the launch of her new Olivia Newton-John Foundation, in the midst of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, with a mission to “fund the discovery of kinder therapies and advocate for more effective ways to prevent, treat and cure all cancers.”

Olivia Newton-John is an advocate of plant therapies, especially when it comes to the benefits of cannabis. (Photo: Yahoo Life)
Olivia Newton-John is an advocate of plant therapies, especially when it comes to the benefits of cannabis. (Photo: Yahoo Life)

“I’ve often wondered why we can’t find kinder ways of treating our bodies and boosting our immune systems rather than poisoning them and knocking them down,” Newton-John explains to Yahoo Life, referring to having gone through own treatments over the past near-three decades, Newton-John explains, “That’s why I’m starting this organization and I’m very excited about it, to help all cancers.”

Also inspiring her in her quest, Newton-John says, has been the recent loss of friends to the disease, including Kelly Preston, wife of John Travolta, who died in July.

“Of course I reached out to [John Travola], he’s my dear friend and I feel so strongly and so sad for the family,” she says. Losing Preston and other friends in the past few months, she says, “has really strengthened my resolve to fund and find kinder treatments for cancer. That’s my dream… because [I have] been on this journey for 28 years now, from the first time I had to seven years ago when I had the recurrences.”

Olivia Newton-John remains close friends with former costar John Travolta, both seen here at a 40th anniversary screening of "Grease" in 2018. "I feel so strongly and so sad for the family," Newton-John says about the recent death of Travolta's wife, Kelly Preston. (Photo: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni)
Olivia Newton-John remains close friends with former costar John Travolta, both seen here at a 40th anniversary screening of "Grease" in 2018. "I feel so strongly and so sad for the family," Newton-John says about the recent death of Travolta's wife, Kelly Preston. (Photo: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni)

Newton-John’s husband, “Amazon” John Easterling, has also been a strong influence and support. He has a long history of expertise in botanical medicines, prompted in part by a near-death experience in the Amazon in the 1970s; he went on to found a plant-medicine company. Now his and her focus are largely on medicinal cannabis.

“So I’ve had the opportunity to use a lot of plants in my healing and in my health,” Newton-John explains, “and particularly in these last seven years he’s been growing cannabis for me, which has had a great benefit for me in my healing.” The cannabis, Newton-John says, has helped with issues including pain, sleep, anxiety and inflammation. “Plants are such a wonderful gift to the planet. There are answers to everything in nature.”

Being home a lot during the pandemic shutdown and slowdown, Newton-John believes, has piqued interest for many about alternative health and healing.

“People are more interested in more natural things because you feel better on them,” she says. “People had cancer before COVID and they’re going to be dealing with cancer after COVID, so I want to try and find these answers that people can heal from it, and it can be treated like other diseases that were once considered terminal and now are not. But I want to do it in a natural way. So that’s my dream and my plan.”

Video produced by Gisselle Bances

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