THE OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENT WAS terse and distressing: Singer-actress Olivia Newton-John, 43, disclosed she had breast cancer. “I draw strength from the millions of women who have faced this challenge successfully,” she added in her July 14 statement. “This has been detected early because I’ve had regular examinations, so I encourage other women to do the same.”
Within 24 hours Newton-John and her husband, actor Matt Lattanzi, 33, and their daughter, Chloe, 6, left their Malibu home for Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, where a partial mastectomy of her right breast was performed. Olivia’s L.A. spokeswoman, Sylvi Brown, says, “She’s doing just fine.” Meanwhile flowers and get-well cards poured into the hospital from fans and friends around the globe. And although Olivia’s doctors told her that the prognosis is good, she was understandably reluctant to talk about her illness. “I’m just too upset to say anything,” she reportedly said before entering the hospital. “I just want to get well.”
The operation was the latest in a series of tragedies that have plagued the Australian performer. Late last year Colette Chuda, the 5-year-old daughter of Olivia’s best American friend, Nancy Chuda, died of cancer. Then just two weeks before her own medical crisis, Olivia lost her father, Brinley Newton-John, 78, emeritus professor of German literature at the University of Newcastle, to cancer.
Newton-John’s surgery meant the abrupt cancellation of a 16-city U.S. concert tour promoting her latest album, Back to Basics, which was scheduled to kick off in Las Vegas on Aug. 6. Financial troubles with Koala Blue, her chain of boutiques, she recently admitted, had persuaded her to “go back to focusing on what I do best.” Apologizing to ticket holders, she said, “I look forward to rescheduling soon.”
Family friend Brian Goldsmith, formerly married to Olivia’s sister, Bona, predicts that Olivia will bounce back quickly. “Because she’s chosen to go public about her breast cancer, it might save thousands of lives,” he says. “That something good might come of something that’s awful for her, I think will make her happy.”