Twenty years on from her shock diagnosis, the iconic Aussie singer has opened her Cancer & Wellness Centre. She talks to KARLEIGH SMITH about the battle that inspired her dream.
Olivia Newton-John is already a full- blown National Treasure for her work in the entertainment industry, and, of course, the singer and actress is still at the top of her game when it comes to performing. But these days, she has another passion – a project very close to her heart. The Olivia Newton-John Cancer & Wellness Centre, located at the Austin Hospital in Heidelberg, Victoria, opened in June. The centre is a calm and meditative retreat where patients can utilise complementary therapies to work alongside traditional cancer treatments.
“When I was diagnosed [with cancer], I really didn’t want to go through chemotherapy,” explains Olivia. “I thought I would be the first person who died from a treatment. I knew I would have to undergo surgery, but chemotherapy was something I was really afraid of. I started researching complementary therapy because I’ve always been health-conscious.”
It’s almost 20 years to the day since Olivia was hit with the news that she had breast cancer. She was just 43, and her diagnosis sent shockwaves through women who had fallen in love with the gorgeous Australian as they followed her journey to Hollywood superstardom. But if there was an upside to Olivia’s illness, it was that for the first time, breast cancer was being talked about openly – and her crusade to continue raising awareness for early detection continues today.
“Twenty years ago, breast cancer was still the scary ‘Big C’ and women tended to keep their diagnosis a secret,” she once told a British magazine. “It now doesn’t have the stigma that it used to, and women I meet no longer think of it
as a death sentence.” It’s her own experience of the scary “Big C” that inspired Olivia to create her wellness centre – a peaceful and relaxing retreat within a beautiful renovated community recreation hall at the Austin Hospital.
Read more about Olivia's fight in this week's Woman’s Day on sale Monday September 17, 2012.
Related video: Karl sings with ONJ.