It wasn’t easy catching up with Olivia Newton-John as she jetsetted around the country on behalf of the many organizations she’s a part of. In the end, we had to settle for a Q&A via e-mail. But not only did we get a glimpse of her writing talent, we also got some very detailed, personal answers about health and Mother Earth.
This coming weekend, the passionate musician, actress and advocate of environmental and breast cancer awareness takes center stage at West Chester University for Olivia: Voices for Healing…Our Planet…Ourselves, a two-day event focusing on health, wellness and conservation. The ACEER Foundation (Amazon Center for Environmental Education and Research), WCU’s College of Health Sciences and the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre Appeal all will benefit.
The event begins March 26 with the keynote address of WCU’s 11th Integrative Health Conference: Integrative Strategies for Breast Cancer, and Newton-John will co-present. On March 27, cancer experts and Newton-John will hold informative sessions on integrative approaches to cancer prevention and treatment, culminating in a gala dinner and Newton-John’s world-premiere performance of her Grace and Gratitude album at the Emilie K. Asplundh Concert Hall.
MLT: How did you get involved with ACEER and WCU’s College of Health and Sciences?
ONJ: I have been very passionate about the environment my entire life, and I was honored to serve as the Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations Environment Programme for many years. My husband, “Amazon John” Easterling, has been traveling to the Amazon for over 30 years, and we both share the passion that a living rainforest is more valuable to us than a dead one. Through John and his company, the Amazon Herb Company, we became involved as board members for ACEER, which is such a wonderful organization that truly helps the indigenous people of the Amazon with so many valuable programs, from building schools to helping them obtain titles and deeds to their land. It was through ACEER that the idea came up to partner with the West Chester College of Health and Sciences.
MLT: What life lessons did you take away from your experience with—and triumph over—breast cancer?
ONJ: I was diagnosed with breast cancer back in 1992 and found my lump through self-examination. After that, I had a mammogram, which was negative, and then a needle biopsy, which was negative. Finally, because I really didn’t feel right and knew there was something wrong, my doctor did a surgical biopsy and that’s how they found my cancer. I don’t tell that story to scare women; I tell it so that women will trust their instincts. We are all pretty intuitive when there is something wrong, so ask your body and your body will answer you. Always trust your instincts. I guess that would be one lesson, and the other main one would probably be: “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” I used to get caught up in things that, in the big picture, really don’t matter.
MLT: Can you identify some of the most indicative and irrefutable links between human health and that of “the planet”?
ONJ: I have always believed that human health and healing is intricately linked to the health and well-being of our planet. It just seems obvious. As we poison Gaia (“Mother Earth”), we are being poisoned, whether it’s cancer or other illness. As we destroy the world we live in and the planet gets sick, we will, too. We have to protect and value the world we live in, and I believe, as we heal the Earth, we too will see things change.
MLT: How many people do you expect at the event, and how will participants benefit?
ONJ: We are hoping the entire weekend of events will be sold out. The weekend is called Voices for Healing…Our Planet…Ourselves, and that is exactly what anyone who attends will get to learn a bit more of. There will be some wonderful speakers talking about various integrative health therapies, blended medicines of how East meets West, nutritional support and care for people with breast cancer, and topics on prevention, treatment and survivorship. There will also be some great information about integrating botanicals into cancer prevention and treatments, which take us back to the planet and the power of Gaia.
MLT: What type of impact will the new integrative cancer treatment and wellness center in Australia have?
ONJ: I think they will be very informative and will provide a new way to look at breast cancer treatments. When I was diagnosed in 1992, in addition to doing chemotherapy [which I was terrified of], I also did many alternative therapies that I believe helped me through the journey. Acupuncture, herbs, homeopathy, massage and meditation were all additional treatments that helped me during my treatment. This is the concept behind my Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre, which recently, after years of fundraising, broke ground in my hometown of Melbourne, Australia. The hospital will be a place for the latest in treatments and comprehensive cancer services, all under one roof. But it will also have a dedicated wellness center—which I am so proud of—and will provide complimentary therapies that will work alongside the latest medical treatment to help heal the whole person, body, mind and spirit.
MLT: Why is study in the Amazon so important to medical and health research?
ONJ: There are thousands of species of plants in the Amazon rainforest, and only a small percentage of them have been studied—and those have shown amazing healing properties. The continuation and study of the Amazon is so important—as myself and my husband know, there are so many answers that lie within the rainforest.
MLT: What should we all aspire to, in terms of our physical well-being? Can you give five of your top secrets to healthy living?
ONJ: I think the main thing is to be happy. If I had to pick five, I would say:
1. Take care of your whole self, body, mind and spirit.
2. Do something for yourself spiritually, creatively and emotionally every day.
3. Eat healthy foods and organic products as often as you can.
4. Exercise daily. Research shows that regular physical activity reduces breast cancer risk and may improve cancer survival.
5. Laugh a lot and—I have to say on a personal level—being in love helps, too! I am blessed to have the life I have and to share it with an amazing man whom I not only love but also respect for all the wonderful things he does for the planet.
To learn more, visit wcupa.edu.