Olivia Newton-John is a three-time breast cancer survivor, having undergone surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments over the course of 28 years. A combination of plant-based medicines with these mainstay treatments, however, is what inspired her to establish the Olivia Newton-John Foundation (ONJ), which helps fund new cancer research.
“I always wondered as I was going through my treatments, wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were kinder therapies for cancer,” the star of ‘Grease’ and ‘Xanadu’ said. “Things that helped build the body’s immune system instead of poisoning it and breaking it down before you built it back up again.”
Newton-John was first introduced to plant-based therapies by her husband, John Easterling, a medicinal plant specialist. “I’ve learnt from him that there are over 100,000 species of plants in the Amazon forest alone and they’ve only studied three percent of those for their therapeutic value,” Newton-John said. “Just imagine the possibilities out there.”
The ONJ Foundation focuses its mission on exploring these possibilities and helps fund research into plant-based cancer treatments. “A lot of people out there are believing these things can work but they haven’t had the funds to research them properly,” Newton-John said. “That’s what made me want to form this foundation and fund the research.”
Part of the resistance towards plant-based medicines, Newton-John said, is simply a lack of knowledge in Western medicine. “Right now, doctors probably don’t feel confident recommending plant-based therapies because there isn’t the science to back it up,” Newton-John said. “That’s what we want to provide with the ONJ Foundation.”
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Newton-John first got involved with wellness research when she established the Olivia Newton-John Center in Melbourne in 2005. “The relationship with the ONJ Center has been amazing,” she said. “That was a very novel idea to have a wellness center in a public hospital. I had to fight for that. In the beginning people didn’t really know what to think of it or take it seriously but it’s really had great benefit for the patients.”
Newton-John experienced the benefits of the wellness center firsthand when she was a patient at the center two years ago. “I was in the center with a fractured sacrum from a metastasis,” Newton-John said. “The wellness programs would come to me in my room and I had great benefit from it.”
Newton-John’s new organization is beginning its fundraising efforts by auctioning memorabilia, photos, and other items that Newton-John has donated, hosted by Julien’s Auctions on November 30th.
“We’re trying to create a community. We’re just a baby, we just were born. Now we’re trying to put together a little kindergarten of people to share their stories,” Newton-John said. “Then we’ll start interviewing different researchers and scientists, the ones who are doing the studies, who we think will have the most benefit around the world.”In addition to her personal experience, Newton-John said she was inspired in this mission after losing a close friend to cancer — her friend Kelly Preston in July of this year. “I think it just reinforced my need to do this,” she said. “It saddened me incredibly but also gave me the strength to keep going with what I’m doing, because I don’t want this to keep happening to any more of my friends, or anybody,” Newton-John said. “I feel that my life’s purpose is to see a world beyond cancer and to see an end to it.”