Olivia Newton-John Was in ‘A Lot of Pain’ Before Her Death—She ‘Wasn’t Walking Anymore’

Olivia Newton-John
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Since she passed away, there have been a lot of questions over how Olivia Newton-John died and what her cause of death was? She battled with her health for more than 30 years, but she was a fighter until the end.

Dame Olivia Newton-John was born on September 26, 1948, in Cambridge, United Kingdom. Her family moved to Melbourne, Australia, when she was six years old. Newton-John’s music career started in 1966 when she released her first single, “Till You Say You’ll Be Mine.” She released her first album, If Not For You, in 1971. The album peaked at number 14 on the Australian album charts and 158 on the American album charts. Newton-John went on to release three more albums—Olivia, Let Me Be There and Long Live Love—before her breakout record, Have You Never Been Mellow, in 1975. The album became Newton-John’s first number one on the Billboard 200 charts and featured hit singles like “Have You Never Been Mellow” and “Please Mr. Please.” Newton-John went on to release a total of 26 albums throughout her career, including bestselling records like Clearly Love, Come on Over, Totally Hot and Physical, which featured Newton-John’s 1981 smash single of the same name. The song, which is seen as Newton-John’s biggest hit, has since sold more than two million copies in the United States and spent 10 weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

"Don't Stop Believin'" by Olivia Newton-John

Image: Courtesy of Gallery Books.

Don’t Stop Believin’ by Olivia Newton-John

Along with her music career, Newton-John was also a successful actress, having starred in films like Toomorrow, Xanadu and Two of a Kind. Her most well-known role was as Sandy Olsson in 1978’s Grease, a movie adaptation of the 1971 musical of the same name. The film, which co-starred John Travolta as Danny Zuko, made history as the highest-grossing musical film ever at the time of its release and even earned an Oscar nomination for the song “Hopelessly Devoted to You” performed by Newton-John.

In an interview with Vanity Fair in 2016, Newton-John revealed that she almost didn’t take her role in Grease because of her busy music career. “I was very anxious about making another film, because my music career was going well,” Newton-John said at the time. “And I did not want to mess it up by doing another movie that wasn’t good.” Director Randal Kleiser also wasn’t sure Newton-John could play Sandy because of the reputation she had from her music career. “I remember meeting her for the first time at that party and thinking, Well. ‘Have You Never Been Mellow?’ How is that going to work? How is she going to become this slut?” he told Vanity Fair.

What convinced Kleiser was a conversation with Travolta who convinced him that Newton-John was the perfect Sandy. “She had a brilliant voice, and I didn’t think there could be any more correct person for Sandy in the universe,” Travolta said. “I never let up on it. I insisted that she be met and that we cast her.”

So how did Olivia Newton-John die and what was her cause of death? Read on for what we know about how Olivia Newton-John died ahead and how her family and friends are remembering her legacy.

How did Olivia Newton-John die?

Olivia Newton-John

Image: Charles Bush/Courtesy: Everett Collection.

How did Olivia Newton-John die? Newton-John died at her ranch in Santa Ynez, California, on the morning of August 8, 2022. She was 73 years old. She was surrounded by friends and family, and passed away peacefully. Her husband, John Easterling, confirmed her death in an Instagram post on the day of her death. “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.” the post read. “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 continues with the Olivia Newton-John Foundation Fund, dedicated to researching plant medicine and cancer. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that any donations be made in her memory to the @onjfoundation.”

The post continued, “Olivia is survived by her husband John Easterling; daughter Chloe Lattanzi; sister Sarah Newton-John; brother Toby Newton-John; nieces and nephews Tottie, Fiona and Brett Goldsmith; Emerson, Charlie, Zac, Jeremy, Randall, and Pierz Newton-John; Jude Newton-Stock, Layla Lee; Kira and Tasha Edelstein; and Brin and Valerie Hall. – via John Easterling, husband, Olivia Newton-John.”

Newton-John’s niece, Tottie Goldsmith, told A Current Affair at the time that her aunt’s death wasn’t a “shock.” “It’s not a shock — we’ve known how sick she’s been, especially in the last five days,” she said. “It wasn’t just the cancer that got her; it was other complications, being in a hospital and with a very susceptible immune system. She got secondary infections. She really went down in the past five, six days.” Though Newton-John used medical cannabis to deal with the pain of her stage 4 breast cancer, Goldsmith told the news program that the drug didn’t help much toward the end of her life. “It wasn’t enough,” she said. “[She] really struggled with a lot of pain.” Goldsmith also recalled the last conversation she had with Newton-John before she died. “I told her all the things I needed to say,” she said. “She was leaving us, but I feel like she got it…She was really skinny and unwell and I said to her, ‘Are you afraid of dying?’ and she said, ‘I’m not afraid. I’ve done more in my life that I could have ever imagined.’”

Newton-John’s Grease co-star, Didi Conn, also told Good Morning America at the time that her late cast mate  “wasn’t walking anymore and that she had full-time care” before her death. “Her husband, John, and her daughter, Chloe, were there all the time and she told me that they were just so hopelessly devoted,” she said.

Newton-John has one child, a daughter named Chloe Rose Lattanzi. She shares Chloe with ex-husband, Matt Lattanzi, whom she was married to from 1984 to 1995. Newton-John married her second husband, John Easterling, in 2008. They were married until her death in 2022. After Newton-John’s death, her Grease co-star, John Travolta, took to his Instagram with a tribute to his late cast mate. Travolta played Danny Zuko to Newton-John’s Sandy Olsson in 1978’s Grease. “My dearest Olivia, you made all of our lives so much better. Your impact was incredible. I love you so much. 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,” Travolta captioned a throwback photo of Newton-John.

What was Olivia Newton-John’s cause of death?

Olivia Newton John

Image: Charles Bush/Courtesy: Everett Collection.

What was Olivia Newton-John’s cause of death? Newton-John’s cause of death hasn’t been confirmed, but a source told TMZ at the time of her death that she died of metastatic breast cancer. “After a 30-year cancer journey, she lost her battle to metastatic breast cancer,” the insider said. Newton-John was first diagnosed with breast cancer in August 1992 when she was 43 years old. “I draw strength from the millions of women who have faced this challenge successfully,” she said in a statement at the time. “This has been detected early because I’ve had regular examinations, so I encourage other women to do the same.”

Newton-John’s announcement came less than a day after she underwent a partial mastectomy of her right breast at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California. “She’s doing just fine,” her representative, Sylvi Brown, said at the time.Newton-John declined to talk to reporters as she entered the hospital. “I’m just too upset to say anything,” she said at the time, according to People. “I just want to get well.”

In May 2017, when she was 68 years old, Newton-John announced that her breast cancer had spread after doctors discovered that the cancer had metastasized to the sacrum, a bone at the base of her spine. Newton-John’s announcement came after she postponed the first half of her concert tour at the time due to severe back pain from what she believed was sciatica. Medical tests later discovered that the pain was due to her cancer. Olivia Newton-John is reluctantly postponing her June U.S. and Canadian concert tour dates. The back pain that initially caused her to postpone the first half of her concert tour, has turned out to be breast cancer that has metastasized to the sacrum,” read a statement on Newton-John’s Facebook at the time. “In addition to natural wellness therapies, Olivia will complete a short course of photon radiation therapy and is confident she will be back later in the year, better than ever, to celebrate her shows.”

In her own statement, Newton-John explained that she decided on the treatment for her cancer based on the advice from her medical team at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre in her hometown of Melbourne, Australia. She founded the center in 2008.

“I decided on my direction of therapies after consultation with my doctors and natural therapists and the medical team at my Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre in Melbourne, Australia,” she said. A source also told People at the time that Newton john hoped to return to her tour later that year. “She plans to be touring in August. They’re all very positive,” the insider said. 

Newton John’s first breast cancer diagnosis came after the death of her father, Brinley Newton-John, in 1992. The return of her cancer in 2013 came after the death of her older sister, Rona. Newton-John learned of her cancer’s returned after she was involved in a car accident.

In an interview with The Guardian in 2020, Newton-John revealed that she had to learn how to walk again in 2018 after her cancer had spread so much that she had fractured the base of her spine. “I was so weak. I had a walker, a cane and crutches, but now I’m walking around,” she said. She told the publication that one way she kept her spirits up was by singing a song she created about her health. “I’m healthy, I’m strong,” she said. “I think it’s very important to keep that positive message in your head. You know, if you have a difficult moment, music is always a great healer.”

Newton-John also told the publication that she wasn’t surprised when her breast cancer returned in 2013. “It’s been a part of my life for so long. I felt something was wrong. It’s concerning when it comes back, but I thought: ‘I’ll get through it again,'” she said. Along with surgery, chemotherapy and radio therapy, Newton-John also credited medical cannabis—a drug she was introduced to by her husband, John, who grew the plant at their Southern California ranch as part of his business. Newton-John’s daughter Chloe also owned a marijuana farm in Oregon. “I was nervous of it in the beginning. But I could see the benefits once I started using it. It helps with anxiety, it helps with sleep, it helps with pain,” she said. Newton-John also denied that she was recommending medical cannabis as an alternative therapy for all cancer patients.  “I’m not telling anyone to do anything,” she said. “I just want to do the research and find out which things work.”

Newton-John also told The Guardian about what she’s learned form her cancer diagnosis, as well as other experiences she’s had, such as her multiple miscarriages before she had her daughter, Chloe, and her ex-boyfriend, Patrick McDermott, who went missing in 2005 and was never found. “I’ve been through a lot of different experiences, some painful, some difficult,” she said. “As you get older, you grow some wisdom. You realise that you will get through this and you will survive it. Like the pandemic – these things happen, but life goes on. We will all learn and grow a lot from this. I think there’ll be positive things that come out of it.”

She continued, “I don’t think of myself as sick with cancer. I choose not to see it as a fight either because I don’t like war. I don’t like fighting wherever it is – whether it’s outside or an actual war inside my body. I choose not to see it that way. I want to get my body healthy and back in balance. Part of that is your mental attitude to it. If you think: ‘Poor me,’ or ‘I’m sick,’ then you’re going to be sick.”

Newton-John also explained to The Guardian about why she doesn’t view her cancer, which led her to open the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre, as a “death sentence.” “I don’t know what I would be without it now,” she said. “I see it as my life’s journey. It gave me purpose and intention and taught me a lot about compassion. It has been a gift. I don’t wish it on anyone else. But for me, it’s been important in my life.” She also told the publication about why she’s no longer afraid of death. “Listen, I think every day is a blessing. You never know when your time is over; we all have a finite amount of time on this planet, and we just need to be grateful for that,” she said.

"Don't Stop Believin'" by Olivia Newton-John

Image: Courtesy of Gallery Books.

Don’t Stop Believin’ by Olivia Newton-John

For more about Olivia Newton-John, read her memoir, Don’t Stop Believin’. The 2019 New York Times bestseller takes readers through Newton-John’s life in her own words, from how she was cast in career-making movies like Grease and Xanadu to how she became one of the world’s bestselling recording artists of all time, with more than 100 million albums sold and four Grammys under her belt. The book also provides an intimate look at Newton-John’s life, including her cancer diagnosis in 1992 and how her strength, courage and grace led her to open the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre in her hometown of Melbourne, Australia, and dedicate her life to cancer research. “Warm, candid, and moving, Don’t Stop Believin’ is Olivia Newton-John’s story in her own words for the very first time,” the publisher’s description reads.

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