Pop singer, actress, Australian icon, mother — we can dub Olivia Newton-John many things, but there is one thing she says we shouldn't call her: a cancer survivor.
"A survivor sounds like someone clinging onto a lifeboat, to me. A thriver is someone that's already off the boat and on land," she told Today.
The much-loved Aussie has offered more insight into her diagnosis and how she’s coping living with cancer in a heartfelt, but defiant, interview.
Speaking to host Natalie Morales while the two visited the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre in Melbourne, Olivia, 68, explained that before learning she had cancer for a second time in May of this year, she initially thought she had sciatica — pain radiating along the sciatic nerve which runs down the leg from the back.
"It was painful to walk, so I thought that it was that," she told the host. "I was still performing. I would kind of a grit my teeth and take a couple of aspirin and go on."
Olivia was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992, just days after her own father had passed away from cancer.
Following eight months of chemotherapy and a partial mastectomy, Olivia was cleared of the disease.
So when tests revealed that mom-of-one Olivia had a metastasized cancer tumor growing at the base of her spine, she was completely caught off guard.
"In my mind, it was over. I'd finished with it," said the Grease star.
Olivia underwent radiation treatment on her sacrum, and by that point the pain was so was so debilitating she could barely walk.
In a bid to keep her pain at bay, Olivia’s husband, John Easterling, introduced her to medicinal marijuana. This is something she now credits to having helped her heal to the point she can walk more freely than when she was first diagnosed with the tumor.
"People have this vision from the 60s of people just sitting around, you know, getting stoned. It's not about that. This plant is a healing plant," she explained. "I think we need to change the vision of what it is. Because it helped me greatly. And it helps with pain and inflammation."
Now the star wants to return to helping others. She’s raising money to keep her wellness center open and to fund research for clinical trials on potentially breakthrough cancer treatments.
And amazingly, after everything she has been through, Olivia has an unwavering, positive outlook.
"I'm not going to be one of those statistics. I'm going to be fine. And I will probably deal with this in my life as an ongoing thing," she said. "I think that you can live with cancer like you can live with other things — if you take care of yourself."
"It taught me I'm stronger than I thought I was. I think most people that go through cancer find that out about themselves," she said.
"Of course, you have fear. That's only natural. But my positive outlook is a decision. I'd be lying if I didn't say I have dark moments and negative moments. I'm human. But on a general scale, I tend to see the glass as half-full."
This post was written by Bettina Tyrrell. For more, check out our sister site, Now to Love.