Olivia Sends Heartfelt Message to Kylie
above photo: still from Australian’s Footy Show 2005 (Olivia is not crying just wiping something form her face!)
By Robin Marchbank
When Kylie Minogue discovered that she had breast cancer. there was one person who understood better than anyone else exactly what she was going through. Fellow Australian singing legend Olivia Newton-John fought her own battle with breast cancer 13 years ago and immediately sent an emotional message of support to the pop princess. “My heart is with you,” Olivia said last week. “I was about to go on tour when I discovered I had cancer so the similarities are very alike.”
But the 56-year-old star, who has become a passionate campaigner for breast cancer issues, has only a message of hope for Kylie and other sufferers of the disease. “Discovering that you have breast cancer doesn’t necessarily mean that you are going to die,’ she says. “I had a mastectomy and six months of chemotherapy after I discovered the cancer and today I feel more healthier than ever. I appreciate every morning, every day. I’m just thankful I’m here.’ When Kylie’s news broke. Olivia was in Australia to raise money for the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Centre Appeal, which is hoping to attract 20 million pounds to build a wellness centre for cancer sufferers in Melbourne.
“People have asked me, ‘why don’t you put the whole cancer thing behind you and stop talking about it.’ Well I have put it behind me, but I don’t want to stop talking about it because I can help other women now,” says Olivia. “I once read an article which said that people who get cancer are very often those who act nicely and never show their emotions. I think I’m like that. I held stuff in and was afraid to talk about it all. Now I’m not.”
It was in July 1992, at a demanding time in her life, that Olivia announced she was undergoing treatment for breast cancer. Not only had she been making TV appearances around the world to promote her album Back to Basics, but also her personal life was in turmoil following the death of her Welsh-born father. An eight week, 16-city concert tour was abruptly cancelled as she underwent surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
Then, after months of treatment. she went back home to Australia to recuperate with her then husband Matt Lattanzi and their daughter Chloe, who was just six when her mother was diagnosed with the disease. It was here that Olivia found the peace of mind she was looking for. “I went into the ladies’ bathroom somewhere. It had been in the newspaper that I’d just gone through chemotherapy and this woman came up to me. She said, ‘Love, I’m 20 years on, I had it 20 years ago.’ “That was really an amazing moment in my life,” Olivia recalls. ‘It was like, ‘Wow! Twenty years later and she’s still alive.’ It was the first time I realised there were other women who had been there a long time ago. It hadn’t even occurred to me, so that was really important.
“Since then I’ve had so many letters from women whose mothers and daughters have gone through it, who were very frightened. It’s like a bond; it’s a sisterhood. Unfortunately, it’s an evergrowing one. “Cancer is a very scary thing to go through,” adds Olivia, who today divides her time between Los Angeles and Australia with Chloe, now 19. and her partner film lighting engineer/cameraman Patrick McDermott. ‘People hear the word ‘cancer’ and they freak out. It’s like, Cancer - I’m gonna die.”
When everything went wrong for me, I realised you can go down the tube or you can fight. I realised I could fight. I’ve continued to be pretty out spoken about breast cancer because three of us in my little group of women friends had it within a five-year period and a couple of others have had scares. We don’t live in the same area. We’re in unrelated jobs. But we are the same age and we’ve all had it different types of tumours, too. “I believe there’s some environmental reason. We’ve looked at other aspects and there doesn’t seem to be a common denominator. But we all breathe the same air and drink the same water, so something’s happening.”
Although breast cancer patients are never considered completely ‘cured’, remission is, says Olivia, the next best thing. ‘I like to say, ‘It’s over.” I’m a survivor. I like that label. That’s the way I think about it. “Your mind is such an important part of your healing,” she notes, her blue eyes filled with passion. ‘It’s mind, body, spirit. so you’ve got to keep your spirit healthy in order to help your mind heal your body.”
Because she was fortunate to have discovered her disease early enough, Olivia now wants to give other women the chance for an early diagnosis - which is why she’s advocating the revolutionary: ‘Liv Kit’, named after her, which could help other women detect breast cancer sooner. ‘Each detection is absolutely vital,” stresses Olivia, who still goes for regular check- ups at Cedars-Sinai and keeps fit by walking and playing tennis.
The durable, reusable Liv Kit is a gel-filled pad that. helps magnify any lumps and lets the fingers slide smoothly over the skin during a breast examination. “I’m convinced that it has the potential to save lives,” Olivia concludes. “Cancer is not. necessarily a death sentence - if you catch it. early enough. I use the Liv Kit every month as part of my self-examination routine. And, remember, if you find a lump or you feel that something’s not right, don’t panic - 50 per cent of’ breast lumps are benign.”