|I USED TO BE REALLY afraid of dying," said Olivia
Newton-John. "It was a fear that was always there, at the bottom of everything. I was
afraid of getting old. I was afraid of a lot of things." In 1992-just as the
Australian singer was about to embark on a U.S. tour, her first in 10 years-Olivia
Newton-John was diagnosed with breast cancer. She canceled the tour and underwent a
partial radical mastectomy and eight months of chemotherapy. I recently vis-ited Olivia,
now 50, at her home in Malibu, Calif., to find out how her struggle with her mother
unbreast cancer had changed her life. " I see it as a gift," she said. "I
know it sounds strange to people who have never been there, and I don't wish it on anyone.
But I don't think I would have grown in the areas that I did without that
Olivia Newton-John was born in Cam- bridge, England, the youngest of three children
and the granddaughter of Max Born, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist.
When she was 5, her family emigrated to Melbourne, Australia, where her father,
Brin, had taken a job as headmaster of a college. Olivia's parents split up when
she was 10. She lived with her mother un-
|til she was 16, when she won a trip to London in a
talent contest. "My mom wanted me to get out of Australia, because I had a
boyfriend, and she thought I was too young," Olivia recalled. "She thought I
needed to go and see the world and get some life ex- perience. I didn't want
to leave. We went to England, and I worked some pretty divey clubs. I wasn't
terribly thrilled. I wanted to go home."
Olivia teamed with fellow Australian Pat Carroll, and the duo Pat and Olivia performed at
cabarets, clubs and on television. Pat's visa eventually ran out, but Olivia remained in
I stayed because my mother had established an English passport for me because I was born
there," said Olivia. "I was very upset. I wanted to go back to Australia, to my
boyfriend. She eventually combined her talents with another Australian, John Farrar, and
produced her first hit, "If Not for You." She toured and then left England for
America, where she became a regular on the pop and country charts.
"I see it as a gift," says Olivia Newton-John about her struggle
with cancer. "I know it sounds strange. But I dont think I would have
grown without that experience."
|For the next two decades, Olivia Newton- John was a huge pop
star, topping the charts with songs like "I Honestly Love You," "Have You
Never Been Mellow,"Magic" and "Physical." She won three Grammys, an
array of gold and platinum records and the Order of the British Empire. Olivia also
starred opposite John Travolta in the 1978 film Grease. In 1984, she
married an actor, Matt Lattanzi, and they had a daughter, Chloe, the inspiration behind
her well-received children's album Warm and Tender. Today, the couple is
divorced and Chloe, 11, lives with her mother.
"My daughter is my priority now," Olivia told me as we sat in her oceanfront
home. No mementos of her career are on display except for a piano used on tour in
the early '80s. It was in 1992 that her latest tour had to be canceled because of
her illness. I asked her about her reaciton to the news that she had breast cancer.
"I think the first days were the most scary," she said, "but I laughed a
lot. The only way I could really cope with it was laughing. Laughter was my
respite. Of course, at night when I was by myself, I was frightened. There