Cancer, Heartbreak and Loss of Loved Ones: Everything Olivia Newton-John Has Said About Her Ups and Downs
From her first breast cancer diagnosis to losing her only sister, everything Olivia Newton-John has said about the struggles in her life
After battling health issues, suffering heartbreak and losing both her mother and sister to cancer, Olivia Newton-John opened up to PEOPLE last fall about soldiering through tragedy and getting to “the best time” of her life.
But on Tuesday, the entertainer, 68, revealed she’s been dealt another blow: After postponing her tour earlier this month because of severe back pain, she was recently diagnosed with breast cancer that has metastasized to the sacrum. “She plans to be touring in August. They’re all very positive,” a source close to the Grammy winner told PEOPLE on Tuesday about Newton-John and her family.
Here’s a look at the heartbreaking moments and biggest struggles the Grease star has grappled with throughout her life.
On her first cancer diagnosis in 1992:
Newton-John received her breast cancer diagnosis on the same weekend her father died in 1992. After successfully beating the disease then, she became an advocate for cancer research and eventually raised enough funds to help build the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre in Melbourne, Australia.
“When I went through breast cancer, I wrote an album called Gaia,” she said about finding strength in music (her latest album LIV ON was also inspired by her sister’s death). “Everyone at some stage of life goes through loss. We’re also connected as human beings. We feel the loss of others. We’re hoping it will help people connect and share and feel.”
When she had breast cancer in the ’90s, the star “did massage and meditation and yoga” to help “keep my spirit positive,” she told PEOPLE last fall. Now, her wellness center offers patients all “the things I had done.”
On losing her beloved sister Rona in 2013:
After battling brain cancer, Rona Newton-John died on May 24, 2013 surrounded by her four children, Fiona, Brett, Tottie and Emerson. Opening up about the “shocking time,” Newton-John told PEOPLE in October the loss was “jarring” despite being “prepared” for Rona’s death. “No one is ever prepared for when the person actually dies,” she said. “Your sister is someone you can share things about the family that no one else understands. I don’t really have that now, so that was really hard to get used to. I would pick up the phone with something to tell her about my brother or relatives or someone that we’d known forever, so that was really odd to let go of that.”
Newton-John started a brain tumor fund in Rona’s name after her death and kept her focus on “getting to see an end to cancer” through her wellness and research center in Australia.
On finding love again after her ex mysteriously went missing:
In 2005, Newton-John’s boyfriend of nine years, Patrick McDermott, mysteriously went missing during a boating trip. Years after he went missing, reports alleged McDermott had faked his death and was discovered to be living in Mexico. “Grief has no time period,” she previously told PEOPLE about the loss. “I think people need to know that because they feel, ‘Gosh, I should be over this by now.’ But truthfully you’re never really over it.”
She did, however, find happily ever after with her businessman husband John Easterling. “I dated a little bit, but I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with him, and then bam!” she recalled of their early days of dating. “One of the hardest things is not knowing [what happened to McDermott]. I’m very lucky I have a wonderful, beautiful husband who is just so loving and fantastic. I always tell my friends you’re never too old to find love. I found the love of my life at 59 going on 60! I’m grateful.”
On her daughter Chloe Lattanzi’s struggles with body dysmorphia and addiction:
Four years ago, Newton-John’s daughter — who struggled with an eating disorder from the age of 15 and eventually began self-medicating with cocaine and alcohol — opened up about the difficulties of growing up in the spotlight. “Fame totally messes you up. I don’t blame my mother for my problems, but I would never want to be famous or raise a child of my own around the cult of celebrity,” she told The Mail on Sunday. “I don’t want to say anything to hurt my mother. I think it was very difficult for her. She’d never faced anything like that before and she didn’t know how to deal with it.”
Now 31, Lattanzi appeared on The Doctors to discuss previous body image issues. “When I was in the height of my body dysmorphia, I had a whole bunch of fillers,” she said about plastic surgery. “I look back at myself as a teenager and I’m like, ‘What a beautiful young woman. What was I thinking? Why was I so insecure?”
Last fall, Newton-John told PEOPLE the duo “have a great relationship” now and said she’s “very proud” of her daughter. “She’s doing a lot of things that she loves to do,” she said. “She’s an adult so I don’t even like to bring up all the old stuff because she’s moving through it. She’s strong.”
Earlier this month, daughter Lattanzi posted a message on Instagram asking for prayers. “I love u mama … Will all of u send healing prayers for my mamas back please,” she wrote May 17. “I believe in the power of positive thinking and energy. Love u all.”