Discovering a close friend or family member has been diagnosed with cancer can be a devastating blow, leaving many people worrying what they can say to help their loved one come to terms with the shock.
But now Grease star Olivia Newton-John, 69, who is currently battling cancer for the third time, has revealed exactly what helped her stay positive through each of her cancer journeys – particularly following her first diagnosis in 1992.
Speaking in an exclusive chat with Starts at 60, the singer and actress said that while all of her relatives and friends were well-meaning at the time, there were some reactions that ended up causing more fear than good.
“I think one of the things is, people are sometimes well-meaning, but they’ll quote you statistics which is what you do not want to focus on,” she said. “People need to be positive and give you positive feedback and not burst into tears.
“They’re the kind of things I came across the first time. People’s fear can sometimes cause a reaction that’s upsetting to you, so what I always say to friends or when people ask me what they should do, I say get somebody who’s close to you, family or a friend or spouse, to field the calls so you don’t have to continually talk about the journey and what you’re going through. You can focus on the positives.”
Indeed, Olivia tries to always live in the ‘now’, without dwelling on her health or deepest concerns by looking too far into the future.
“We only have now, so being in any other way doesn’t make any sense. Looking back, it’s too late, looking forward you don’t know, so be here now!” She added.
“Make your plans and whatever you think, do that and put it to one side, but don’t dwell on it. That’s my thinking. But also, it’s really good to have intentions for things you want to do in the future, because you create that reality for yourself.”
Keen to do just that, Olivia – who is now battling cancer for the third time after discovering a tumour at the base of her spine in 2017 – chose to keep her second diagnosis secret from the public six years ago, only opening up about it recently on Channel 7’s Sunday Night.
She discovered a lump in her shoulder shortly after being involved in a car accident in 2013, around the time her sister Rona sadly died from an aggressive form of brain cancer. She initially assumed it was a result of the seatbelt slamming in to her during the crash. Sadly, it was actually the breast cancer she had beaten two decades before returning.
“I’d written a book and it was an opportunity to talk about it. The journey I’m on now, I’ve been on for a year or two, I just chose not to talk about the one in between,” she said of her admission on Sunday Night. “I chose not to tell anyone, it’s not everyone’s business everything that I do.”
She has since found that avoiding dwelling on her health and instead making plans for the coming years has helped her to remain positive. She explained: “If you have plans for a year, two years or 10 years, it’s good to have those intentions because you create your reality with your thoughts and intentions.”
Asked if it’s helped her, she added: “I guess it’s just who I am, I don’t really think about whether it’s helpful to me, I just do it.”
Olivia is now preparing to host her sixth Wellness Walk and Research Run in Melbourne on Sunday, September 16, raising money for her ONJ Centre which works to help sufferers while developing and trialling breakthrough cancer therapies, as well as the Austin Hospital.
The walk has now become a global event, with people across the world able to take part and connect with those in Australia virtually. There’s a 5km walk and a 5km or 10km run open to all ages.
“Everyone across the world has a personal story where they have been touched by a friend or family member living with cancer, so it makes sense that we all come together, wherever we may be, to raise funds to help people win over and live better with cancer,” Olivia said.
This year’s walk will take place on Sunday, September 16 at La Trobe University’s Bundoora campus in Melbourne. You can sign up on the official site here.