Olivia Newton-John's Battle With Breast Cancer: In Her Own Words

The actress has been very open about her health journey over the years.

Olivia Newton-John's fans, friends and family are mourning her death. On Monday, Aug. 8, the actress' husband, John Easterling, broke the news that she had passed away. She was 73.

As her husband noted in his Instagram post, Newton-John's death comes after her decades-long battle with breast cancer, which she was extremely forthcoming about to the public. Her story has inspired and encouraged others on the same health journey.

Over the years, ET has spoken to Newton-John throughout her ups and downs. Here is a look back at what she has so candidly said about her battle with breast cancer since being first diagnosed in 1992. 

The Real Reason She Went Public About Her Cancer

Just months after her friend, Kelly Preston, died of breast cancer in July 2020, Newton-John spoke with ET about how she initially felt forced to go public about her own diagnosis in the '90s.

"There was going to be an article released in one of the gossip papers that I was dying of cancer," the Grease star recalled. "When I heard that, I decided that rather than frighten my family and my friends, it would be better to just come out with it."

The Olivia Newton-John Foundation

While speaking to ET in October 2020, Newton-John also opened up about her efforts to help others battling cancer. 

"I'm so excited. This has been something that's been in my heart and my mind for many years," she said of the organization, which is focused on finding new avenues for cancer treatment and recovery that are gentler on a person's body. "Being a cancer thriver of 28 years and having gone through surgery and chemotherapy and radiation I always had this dream that we could find kinder ways of treating cancer."

Living With Stage 4 Breast Cancer

In 2019, Newton-John revealed that her cancer had returned for the third time and she was battling stage 4 breast cancer. ET spoke with her at the Industry Dance Awards & Cancer Benefit Show in Hollywood that year, and per usual, her spirits were high. 

"I just want everyone to know, I'm here, I'm doing great," she said. "I'm doing really well and I'm really healthy."

When asked how she feels about all those who hear her story and take comfort in her journey as they deal with their own health battles, Newton-John said that being an inspirational force for those in need is "a responsibility" she appreciates and respects.

"I hear that and I'm very touched by that," she shared. "I am positive about my life and about my journey and I hope that can touch other people [and help them to] be positive about theirs."

She Was Determined to Enjoy Life

During her interview with 60 Minutes Australia in August 2019, she was adamant about living her life to the fullest despite her cancer returning. 

"I'm so lucky that I've been through this three times and I'm still here," she said. "We know we're gonna die at some point, and we don't know when it is. When you're given a cancer diagnosis or a scary honest diagnosis, you're suddenly given a possibility of a time limit. So every day is a gift."

Newton-John added, "If somebody tells you, you have six months to live, very possibly you will because you believe that. So for me, psychologically, it's better not to have any idea of what they expect or what the last person that has what you have lived, so I don't, I don't tune in."

"Every Day Is a Gift"

In March 2019, Newton-John spoke to ET and had some words to live by. 

“Every day’s a gift anyway,” she shared. “We don’t really know how long our life is, so every day is an extra bonus for me and I’m very grateful and I intend to be here for a long time. I have much to do, still, and I’m enjoying my life.”

Dispelling Rumors About Her Health

During her battles with cancer, Newton-John often contended with salacious and exploitative tabloid reports about her health and claims that she only had weeks to live. In January 2019, the entertainer took it upon herself to shut some of those reports down with a high-spirited video she shared on Facebook.

"Happy New Year, everyone! This is Olivia Newton-John, and I just want to say that the rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated, to quote the famous quote," she said with a laugh, paraphrasing the famous quip commonly attributed to Mark Twain.

"I'm doing great and I want to wish all of you the happiest, healthiest 2019 that is possible," she continued. "Thank you all for your wonderful love and support, for me and for my Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness Center in Melbourne, Australia. Thank you so much!"

Her Message to Alex Trebek Before He Died of Cancer

In the wake of Alex Trebek's announcement that he was battling Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, Newton-John was battling breast cancer for the third time, and she shared some words of encouragement with the beloved Jeopardy! host -- who passed away on Nov. 20, 2020.

"I sent him a message saying, 'I know you can get through this,' and, 'Don't listen to stage four and all of [that]. Don't read the statistics and stay focused and see how you can heal yourself,'" she told ET in March 2019. "That helps. Sense of humor is vital."

How She Stayed Positive When Her Cancer First Returned

Newton-John remained remarkably positive and determined throughout her health journey, even in the face of setbacks and pain.

"I need to get through this,” she told Australia's 60 Minutes in September 2017 when her cancer returned for a second time, making her “skid to a very quick halt.”

“I have lots to do, but of course, it's scary. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't scary. It was, but I felt very sure that I would get through," she shared. "The pain level was really the hardest thing... I was trying to do shows and it was pretty agonizing."

“I can walk, but I can't go long distances,” she revealed during the televised interview. “But I'll get there, because I couldn't walk at all a month or so ago. As I heal I'll be able to walk more.”

As for how she stayed upbeat after all the battles she has faced in life, the star said love and support from the public “kept me up,” and she had zero complaints about the cards life has dealt to her.

“I've had and I'm having an amazing life,” she said. “So I have no complaints. I really don't ...everyone goes through something. We all have something we need to go through in life and this has been my challenge.”

The Importance of Opening Up About Her Battle

Newton-John's battle with breast cancer inspired her 2005 album, Stronger Than Before, and she explained to ET that same year that she was "determined that I was gonna get through it."

"Whatever you go through, pain makes you grow even though it's difficult at the time," she shared.

"Initially when I was first diagnosed for me it was a very private matter, that's why I was laughing when I was sitting here talking about my breasts so openly, because when I was first diagnosed that was the last thing in the world I wanted to talk about, and I was so nervous about people finding out about it," she recalled, explaining that finally being able to share her story was "a very positive thing for me.... I think it's an individual journey for everybody. For me, it was good to talk about it."

Finding Strength and Healing Through Song

Amid her battles with breast cancer -- and following the death of her sister, Rona, in 2013, who died just six weeks after being diagnosed with brain cancer -- Newton-John shared the impact music had on her life, her own health journey and how she recovered after her sister's passing.

"There was a time where I didn't think I'd sing again, but time is a wonderful healer and it doesn't heal everything, but singing for me is my way of healing and it always has been," she told ET in 2014, while discussing her return to music after Rona's death. "Whenever I've gone through difficult times in my life, music is what has helped me get through. She was always there for me, so I know that I need to keep singing, she didn't want me to stop."

For more on Newton-John's inspiring life and legacy, see the video below.