How Did Olivia Newton-John Die? Her Long Battle with Cancer

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Last updated on September 7th, 2023 at 01:45 am

From the day Dame Olivia Newton-John appeared on the music scene, we were “Hopelessly Devoted” to her.

With her iconic role as Sandy Olsson in the hit movie musical Grease, starring alongside John Travolta and Stockard Channing, and award-winning songs and albums, she is one of the most beloved artists of the last 50 years.

That’s why the news of her death immediately broke the hearts of fans around the world. As the tributes came pouring in, it was clear that this British-born Australian singer would be remembered for years to come.

What did Olivia Newton-John die of? What is her legacy? Find out below.

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How did Olivia Newton-John Die?

Olivia Newton-John died after a multiple-decade battle with breast cancer.

How many times did Olivia Newton-John have cancer? Three times.

The Grease star was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992, although it’s unknown what type of breast cancer it was, be it metastatic or ductal carcinoma in situ.

Her first diagnosis, while it hindered her being able to fulfill publicity and a tour for Back to Basics: The Essential Collection 1971-1992, it didn’t take long for her to recover after going through treatment and chemotherapy, and for the next decade she was able to wear the moniker of being a breast cancer survivor. She didn’t waste it either.

After her first bout with cancer, as many celebrities do, she advocated for breast cancer research.

Some of her most significant contributions have included being a spokesperson for the Liv-Kit, a breast self-examination product, and opening the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre in 2012 at the Austin Hospital in Melbourne.

It was later rededicated in 2015 as the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre after the closing of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, which was also at the hospital.

The center provides treatment for breast cancer, including surgery, medical oncology, radiation therapy, hematology, and palliative care. It also includes wellness treatment, including mammograms and other preventative measures.

She also established the Olivia Newton-John Foundation Fund, dedicated to researching plant medicine and cancer.

The “Follow Me” singer battled her second fight against breast cancer in 2013, a fact that she only revealed when the final recurrence came in 2017.

By the time her breast cancer returned for the third time, Newton-John said the cancer had progressed to stage IV, having metastasized to her lower back and bones.

The pain that came with the bone lesions led to the beloved singer’s advocacy for using medical cannabis, as cannabis oil, thanks to her daughter’s Ohio cannabis farm, helped ease her pain.

Knowing that this final bout with cancer would most likely end in her passing, Julien’s Auctions set up an auction on Nov. 2, 2019, which included the auctioning off of hundreds of memorabilia items from the “Twist of Fate” singer’s multi-decade career.

The most famous items, of course, included her leather pants and jacket from the end of Grease, which raised more than $400,000 of the $2.4 million raised.

What wasn’t expected was that the anonymous buyer returned the jacket to Newton-John. “It should not sit in a billionaire’s closet for country-club bragging rights. […] The odds of beating a recurring cancer using the newest emerging therapies is a thousandfold greater than someone appearing out of the blue, buying your most famous and cherished icon, and returning it to you,” the man told her.  

All the proceeds from the auction were donated to the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre.

Related: What Disease Does Suzanne Somers Have? Her Crazy Cancer Journey

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When Did Olivia Newton-John Die?

Olivia Newton-John passed away on Aug. 8, 2022. She died peacefully at her home in the Santa Ynez Valley in California.

How Old Was Olivia Newton-John When She Died?

Olivia Newton-John still had some years to live. The “Air That I Breathe” singer was only 73 when she died.

Olivia Newton-John Funeral

Olivia Newton-John’s funeral was a very private affair. A memorial service was held in California.

A second state funeral, put on by the State of Victoria, was held on Feb. 26, 2023, at Hamer Hall in Melbourne, Australia, for which both Newton-John’s husband and daughter gave eulogies.

Additionally, Richard Wilkins spoke of her optimism, magnanimity, and strength of character; a video montage of her career, family life, and wellness center was played, and Delta Goodrem performed some of her biggest hits.

David Campbell hosted the Australian memorial service. It included appearances by several celebrities who wanted to pay tribute, including Dolly Parton, Elton John, P!nk, and Nicole Kidman, many of whom also pre-recorded video tributes that were also played.

Elton John noted her “bravery and optimism” and said, “She was such a wonderful force of nature. She was funny, kind, warm, and talented, and every time we got together, we laughed and laughed and laughed.”

Meanwhile, Parton noted how much she “honestly loved” the late “I Love You, I Honestly Love You” singer and that she mourns along with Australia. “I had the honor of singing with her several times. I considered her a great friend as well as a fellow entertainer. […] Thank you for shining your light on us,” the “Jolene” singer noted.

Related: How Did Michael Jackson DIe?

Did John Travolta Go to Olivia Newton-John’s funeral?

Unfortunately, the famous face people expected most to be at her funeral was not, and fans were puzzled.

Several fans posted to social media wondering what the deal was.

“Where was John Travolta’s tribute? I thought for sure he would have recorded a message,” said one Twitter post.

“I was a little perplexed by a couple of things at the memorial. Where was John Travolta’s tribute? And why did every ‘private’ photo of Olivia have [her husband, John] Easterling in it?” wrote another.

Although Travolta himself has never spoken about his absence from the service, the final question of the second user comment may be a hint to part of the reason.

According to Woman’s Day, an insider reportedly hinted at the idea that Easterling and Travolta did not get along, especially considering the rumors over the years that Travolta and Newton-John “loved each other” and fans for so long expressed their wish that the two had been together.

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What Did John Travolta Say About Olivia Newton-John’s Death?

John Travolta may not have been at the State of Victoria funeral or recorded a tribute like so many other celebrities, but just hours after her death, he became one of the first to post a tribute to social media.

Along with a throwback photo of Newton-John in a denim, three-quarter sleeve top, he wrote a tribute that more than 3.8 million Instagram users have since liked.

“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, you John!”

Related: The 15 Best Australian Singers of All Time

Where is Olivia Newton-John Buried?

Olivia Newton-John was cremated at her request, and her ashes were scattered on her Santa Ynez ranch, in Byron Bay, and “in other places that I love.”

What were Olivia Newton-John’s Last Words?

As the world mourned the passing of the beloved Australian icon, her daughter, Chloe Rose Lattanzi, gave the world a gift six months later when she revealed her mother’s final words during an interview with Today.

Hoda Kotb led the interview with Lattanzi and Newton-John’s widower, John Easterling. Lattanzi said Newton-John was always laughing, ever towards the end. “Right before she lost her ability to speak, she was making jokes.” Then, her final words, spoken to her daughter, were simply, “My sunshine.”

Who Inherited Olivia Newton-John’s Money? 

At the time of her death, Olivia Newton-John’s estimated net worth was around $60 million.

It is believed that her money was set to be inherited by her daughter, Chloe Rose Lattazni, her child with her first husband, Matt Lattazni, and her husband, John Easterling. 

Who Owns the Rights to Olivia Newton-John’s Songs?

It is believed that, since her death, Olivia Newton-John’s songs belong to Primary Wave Music Publishing whom she struck up a partnership in 2020.

The partnership included her catalog of masters and publishing assets of such hits as “Physical,” “Please Mr.,” and “A Little More Love.” 

Related: 18 Best Female Country Singers

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Olivia Newton-John’s Legacy

Even though Olivia Newton-John’s life came to a heartbreaking end after such an inspirational battle against cancer, her legacy and contribution to the world, both publicly and privately, will always be remembered.

Some of her biggest honors included being named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1979, issued by Queen Elizabeth II, earning a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1981, and an induction into the Australian Recording Industry Association Hall of Fame in 2002.

She has also received four Grammy Awards, Academy of Country Music and Country Music Association Awards, six American Music Awards, and more.

All these honors indeed prove her legacy, but it’s what came posthumously that truly showed just how much she was loved amongst her fans and fellow artists.

Some examples include P!nk’s commemorative covering of “And in the Morning” singer at the 2022 American Music Awards and a tribute performance at the 2022 ARIA Music Awards by Peking Duk, Natalie Imbruglia, and Tones and I.

Even non-celebrities took the time to pay tribute, too. On NBC’s America’s Got Talent 17th season, Spanish ventriloquist, Celia Muñoz, paid tribute to her during the semi-final round as she sang “Hopelessly Devoted” and mimicked the drive-in scene from Grease

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Written by Katie Peterson

Katie Peterson received her bachelor's degree in English from the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth in 2015. She has worked in journalism since 2015, beginning as production assistant and eventual head staff writer of the Fort Leavenworth Lamp newspaper in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Currently, she is a multimedia journalist with the Diocese of Nashville's Office of Media and Evangelization where she writes, does photography, and edits for several types of content, including the Tennessee Register, Catholic Awakenings, and She has also worked as a freelance journalist with the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas's newspaper, The Leaven, since 2016.
In her spare time, Peterson enjoys reading, spending time with her pup, Sadie Lynn, singing and songwriting.


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