Like many people, I was saddened to learn that Olivia Newton-John is again battling cancer. To me, she is not just a wonderful entertainer – she is the first celebrity that I remember openly discussing her battle with breast cancer in 1992. She advocated for more awareness and better treatments, and showed us that you can have a fulfilling life after breast cancer treatment – even when you are diagnosed in your mid-40’s.
Which is why I think this has hit a lot of my pink sisters especially hard. I have heard a lot of despair in my support group in the last few days. After all, Olivia is the one who did it. She stared breast cancer in the face and said “Oh, hell no!” It is a reminder to us that any of us can have a recurrence. Any of us can have a metastasis (when the cancer spreads to other parts of the body). This is the fear that all cancer survivors, no matter what the type, live with every day. We all fear the moment that we will once again hear those words, “You have cancer.”
But this is not my take away from Olivia’s fight. When I read about her new challenges Tuesday, the words that jumped off the screen at me were “25 years”.
Wow. Twenty-five years of being NED (no evidence of disease).
(On a side rant, I hate the term “remission”. It implies to me that the cancer is sitting there dormant, waiting to strike again. NED tells me we eliminated, no, exterminated all the cancer. Sure, I may produce more at some point, but for now, I have won).
But I digress.
It is incredible to me that Olivia has been NED for 25 years. My doctors keep scaring me with talk of five year recurrence rates. There are days that I can’t imagine more than that. Twenty-five years feels like a lifetime that I may barely dream about today. And she did it! After being treated with 1992 technology, Olivia has not just survived, she has thrived. And she shows no sign of stopping now.
From her press release:
“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.”
I refuse to ever lose hope. I refuse to think of myself in terms of statistics. Cancer may win in the end, but it’s going to drag me out kicking, screaming, and leaving nail marks in the door jam. I have hope for me, for all my pink sisters, and for Olivia. I hope her treatment is successful. I hope she tours again and embraces life. No matter what the future holds, I know one thing. She has already shown us there is life after cancer. And I am devoted to finding that for myself.