Grease star Olivia Newton-John died peacefully on Aug. 8, her family announced. Newton-John became the celebrity face of breast cancer over 30 years ago when she was first diagnosed. Newton-John never stopped working, even recording her final album in 2016. She also made public appearances to the delight of her millions of fans, including appearing on Dancing With the Stars last year to celebrate her most famous movie.
“Dame Olivia Newton-John (73) passed away peacefully at her Ranch in Southern California this morning, surrounded by family and friends. We ask that everyone please respect the family’s privacy during this very difficult time,” Newton-John’s family announced on Facebook. “Olivia has been a symbol of triumphs and hope for over 30 years sharing her journey with breast cancer. Her healing inspiration and pioneering experience with plant medicine continue with the Olivia Newton-John Foundation Fund, dedicated to researching plant medicine and cancer.”
Newton-John was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992, and it came back in 2013. In May 2017, Newton-John said she was diagnosed with breast cancer again, and it metastasized and spread to her bones. In August 2019, she told Australia’s 60 Minutes she felt lucky to still be alive. “I’m living with it. It’s just reinforced my gratitude,” Newton-John said, via PEOPLE. “We know we’re gonna die at some point and we don’t know when it is. When you’re given a cancer diagnosis or a scary honest diagnosis, you’re suddenly given a possibility of a time limit. The truth is, you could get hit by a truck tomorrow. So every day is a gift, particularly now.”
Although cancer returned in an aggressive form at the time, Newton-John said she was optimistic she could win the battle. However, she also said she didn’t see it as a fight. “It’s something I’m living with,” the “Physical” singer said. “I see it as something in my body I’m getting rid of. I don’t talk about a battle or a war, because I think that sets up that kind of feeling in your body like you’re battling something strange inside you. I let it go and tell it to leave and talk to my body to heal itself and don’t try to make it that. Because that takes up your whole life and your whole being.”
During a July 2021 interview with Closer Weekly, Newton-John said she was feeling “very good” after changing her diet. She has also admitted to using herbs and cannabis to help the pain. “My husband makes me tinctures that help me immensely with pain, inflammation, sleep, and anxiety,” Newton-John said. “I’d like to research all that and find out what else is going on because I feel good.”
Newton-John never let her cancer get in the way of her work. In early 2021, she recorded “Window in the Wall,” a duet with daughter Chloe Lattanzi. In 2019, she joined John Travolta for a brief tour of Florida, where they joined fans for Grease screenings. She has also been a longtime advocate for raising breast cancer awareness. She ran the Olivia Newton-John Foundation and the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness Research Centre was named after her. After Travolta’s wife Kelly Preston died in 2020, Newton-John said she was only “more determined” to help end cancer.
“My dearest Olivia, you made all of our lives so much better. Your impact was incredible. I love you so much,” Travolta wrote in his tribute to Newton-John. “We will see you down the road and we will all be together again. Yours from the first moment I saw you and forever! Your Danny, your John!”