The singer and Grease star, 70, is opening up about how she's really handling stage 4 breast cancer, and a recent complication that left her bedridden

By Janine Rubenstein
March 06, 2019 09:35 AM
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Olivia Newton-John is alive and feeling well. But it has been a rough few months.

The iconic Grease star and singer, 70, opens up to PEOPLE in this week’s issue, speaking out for the first time and setting the record straight after tabloid rumors claimed in January that she was near death or, in some cases, dead already.

“Those things are so stupid. Why not just go, ‘Here I am, and I’m fine!” she says of why she immediately took to social media with a smiley denial video in the wake of the rumors. “We just nipped it in the bud.”

But the star, who is in the midst of treating stage 4 breast cancer — she was first diagnosed in 1992 and also secretly overcame a bout in 2013 — is ready to reveal that the last few months have been challenging.

Olivia Newton-John
Mark Sullivan Bradley, photographed at Gaia Retreat and Spa

Nearly two years after learning her breast cancer had returned for a third time, Newton-John says she’s spent the last six months recovering from a fractured pelvis, a side effect of the weakening of her bones due to cancer, which this time has spread to her sacrum.

The Australian star goes into detail about the latest ordeal and a lifetime full of other ups and downs in the American-version of her new memoir Don’t Stop Believin’, out March 12 in the U.S. The title, she says, fits perfectly. “I always felt empowered when I sang it,” says Newton-John of her 1976 song (not to be confused by Journey’s anthem).

The song’s message particularly resonates, she says. “You’ll get by and bad days will hurry by — what could be more perfect?”

Olivia Newton-John
Peter Zambouros

Newton-John’s recent bad days began back in September after she felt severe pain while taking part in a cancer walk for her Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre in Melbourne, Australia. As the pain increased she stopped into her hospital and received the news that she suffered a cancer-induced pelvis fracture. It would cause her to spend her 70th birthday in the hospital, where she received radiation treatment.

“There were all these things I was going to do for my birthday,” she says of planning a blowout in L.A. that would turn into a quiet dinner with close family and friends in the hospital. “But God had other plans.”

For more on Olivia Newton-John’s health and life now, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

Still, she says, “I never say ‘Why me?’ I was like, ‘Wow, I’m in my hospital that I’d dreamt of building for people to have rest and peace and there I was getting the best care.’ It was quite magical.”

Olivia Newton-John at the walk in September
Scott Barbour/Getty

Since then Newton-John has returned home, where she is being supported and cared for by husband John Easterling, while keeping up with holistic treatments that include herbs and medicinal cannabis, as well as oral cancer medication prescribed by her oncologist.

Olivia Newton-John and John Easterling
Kathryn Burke

“I started on a walker, then a cane and now nothing,” she says of continuing to regain her strength.

Coming to grips with this latest aggressive form of the disease (which doctors say is incurable, but can be managed through treatment) has been a process, “Of course I had my moments, and my tears and all that,” she says. “But I have a wonderful husband who supports me through those things.”

Newton-John also finds support from daughter Chloe Lattanzi, 33, and friends and family. But she admits the death rumors hurt.

“My friends were calling and believing this stuff. I had to say, ‘You really think if it was that bad you wouldn’t know?’” Ask her now and she says, “I’m feeling good, just getting stronger.” On a recent visit to her doctor, the star adds, “she was very happy with [my progress].”