Olivia Newton-John death on August 8, 2022

Posted by Helen, Volunteer Mentor @naturegirl5, Aug 10 3:26pm

It's taken me a few days to realize that Olivia Newton-John's death from cancer has really shaken me. I knew that she was diagnosed with breast cancer in the early 1990's but did not know that she was being treated for cancer again in 2013 (reported to be breast cancer in her shoulder). I'm going on what the media reported so I'm certain I'm missing many details.

My own cancer journey began in 2019 (endometrial adenocarcinoma treated with hysterectomy) and recurrence in late 2021 (treated with radiation therapy). There are days and weeks that go by where I feel good and don't dwell on cancer. This week has been difficult.

How are you feeling after the announcement of Olivia Newton-John's death? Do you feel like I do that every time you turn around someone you know has been diagnosed with cancer?

Interested in more discussions like this? Go to the Cancer group.

From the National Cancer Institute:
"The Definition of Cancer
Cancer is a disease in which some of the body’s cells grow uncontrollably and spread to other parts of the body.

Cancer can start almost anywhere in the human body, which is made up of trillions of cells. Normally, human cells grow and multiply (through a process called cell division) to form new cells as the body needs them. When cells grow old or become damaged, they die, and new cells take their place.

Sometimes this orderly process breaks down, and abnormal or damaged cells grow and multiply when they shouldn’t. These cells may form tumors, which are lumps of tissue. Tumors can be cancerous or not cancerous (benign).

Cancerous tumors spread into, or invade, nearby tissues and can travel to distant places in the body to form new tumors (a process called metastasis). Cancerous tumors may also be called malignant tumors. Many cancers form solid tumors, but cancers of the blood, such as leukemias, generally do not.

Benign tumors do not spread into, or invade, nearby tissues. When removed, benign tumors usually don’t grow back, whereas cancerous tumors sometimes do. Benign tumors can sometimes be quite large, however. Some can cause serious symptoms or be life threatening, such as benign tumors in the brain."

It seems that cancer is more frequently diagnosed as more advanced detection techniques are discovered, more links found.

I would like to think that anyone diagnosed with cancer of any sort has been given options to explore for their treatment. That they have the opportunity to take part in clinical trials if they want. That they have the support of family and friends they choose to share their information with. That they can come here to Mayo Clinic Connect and share their experience, with no judgment.
Ginger

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I had the same, uterus cancer in 2009. Recurrence in the vaginal cuff in 2017 and breast cancer 2009.
I had a hysterectomy and was told that they removed all the cancer and no other treatment was necessary other than follow ups. I have since spoken to other cancer patients who were advised to have brachytherapy after their surgery. This now makes sense to me and seems an excellent suggestion to prevent recurrence. In 2017 I had to have brachytherapy and radiation.
I understand your concerns I also have days where I think about cancer more how can we not, we try and live our lives the best we can and pray that we stay cancer free.

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My take away from this was profound sadness at first because I adored her. As I live with breast cancer every day, my feelings of admiration for her breast cancer advocacy are overwhelming. I am grateful that she was around to do that advocacy work for 30 years. She lived with it every day for 30 years, that is an achievable goal! Finally, I choose to be grateful for the example she set.

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@jeanadair123

I had the same, uterus cancer in 2009. Recurrence in the vaginal cuff in 2017 and breast cancer 2009.
I had a hysterectomy and was told that they removed all the cancer and no other treatment was necessary other than follow ups. I have since spoken to other cancer patients who were advised to have brachytherapy after their surgery. This now makes sense to me and seems an excellent suggestion to prevent recurrence. In 2017 I had to have brachytherapy and radiation.
I understand your concerns I also have days where I think about cancer more how can we not, we try and live our lives the best we can and pray that we stay cancer free.

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@jeanadair123 Thank you for your note. Our cancer journeys are very similar. I thought I was so fortunate in 2019 when I was told that no other treatment was required. When the recurrence was found in the vaginal cuff just two years later the pathologist said that it's very possible something was missed on the first pathology exam after surgery. After all, all this tissue is sent to pathology and they cannot look at every single cell or square inch. It's just not possible to do that. Since there was a 5% chance of recurrence I was one of the "unlucky" ones who had the recurrence. I wish in retrospect that brachytherapy had been recommended after the initial hysterectomy but I understand why that didn't happen.

Thank you too for validating my fears. I think of cancer more days than not too and I also pray and hope that we all stay cancer free and live our lives as survivors.

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@auntieoakley

My take away from this was profound sadness at first because I adored her. As I live with breast cancer every day, my feelings of admiration for her breast cancer advocacy are overwhelming. I am grateful that she was around to do that advocacy work for 30 years. She lived with it every day for 30 years, that is an achievable goal! Finally, I choose to be grateful for the example she set.

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Thank you, Chris @auntieoakley . Yes, that's a long time that she lived as a cancer survivor and she was a superb advocate for breast cancer. Today I am tired (it's Friday) and feeling grateful.

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@naturegirl5

@jeanadair123 Thank you for your note. Our cancer journeys are very similar. I thought I was so fortunate in 2019 when I was told that no other treatment was required. When the recurrence was found in the vaginal cuff just two years later the pathologist said that it's very possible something was missed on the first pathology exam after surgery. After all, all this tissue is sent to pathology and they cannot look at every single cell or square inch. It's just not possible to do that. Since there was a 5% chance of recurrence I was one of the "unlucky" ones who had the recurrence. I wish in retrospect that brachytherapy had been recommended after the initial hysterectomy but I understand why that didn't happen.

Thank you too for validating my fears. I think of cancer more days than not too and I also pray and hope that we all stay cancer free and live our lives as survivors.

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I was told it was only a 1% chance for recurrence but that they actually got it all. Thats very interesting what you said about the pathology report? I find it hard to be so proactive, I had my surgery in Texas, we then moved back to California. I went to 3 highly rated gyno oncologists none of whom used a speculum the fourth gyno oncologist told me she would use a speculum but didn’t expect to find anything she was very surprised when she did. Had I not been so proactive I doubt I would be around now to write this.
Just make sure from now that your dr uses a speculum. Be safe.

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A friend asked what Olivia Newton-John's death meant to me, having recently had a lumpectomy for breast cancer. I said that aside from the dismay and compassion for the pain and discomfort she suffered, my take-away is that someone can live 30 years after an initial, aggressive cancer and have a life of continuing value! That is not the breast cancer experience I heard about growing up and is already a game-changer.

On the darker side, my PCP mentioned that when he was in medical school, 30 years ago, the risk for breast cancer was less than half of what it is today. Some of that can be explained by the fact that many more cases of breast cancer are identified by advanced screening and a higher percentage of women having mammograms. But the actual per capita numbers for breast cancer are increasing too. Women's bodies are sometimes thought of as the canaries in the coal mine as early responders to pollutants, contaminated food, et al. I don't what it will take to unite everyone to demand environmental responsibility and de-throne corporate control of the food chain but I suspect women will be the major force behind ant meaningful change, if only to protect children. Clearly cancer cells are finding opportunities to exist and we haven't closed that vector yet.

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@jeanadair123

I was told it was only a 1% chance for recurrence but that they actually got it all. Thats very interesting what you said about the pathology report? I find it hard to be so proactive, I had my surgery in Texas, we then moved back to California. I went to 3 highly rated gyno oncologists none of whom used a speculum the fourth gyno oncologist told me she would use a speculum but didn’t expect to find anything she was very surprised when she did. Had I not been so proactive I doubt I would be around now to write this.
Just make sure from now that your dr uses a speculum. Be safe.

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@jeanadair123 My hysterectomy was performed at Mayo Clinic by a gyn-oncology surgeon. I've been followed at Mayo Clinic since then. It was during a follow-up that the "polyp" was found in the vaginal cuff. And yes, every time I'm been seen a speculum is used. I'm wondering why would a gyn-oncologist not use a speculum? I'm not a medical professional but I wonder how they could visualize the entire vagina without a speculum?

You've been through so much with endometrial cancer, recurrence, and then breast cancer. How are you feeling? How do you take care of you?

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@naturegirl5

@jeanadair123 My hysterectomy was performed at Mayo Clinic by a gyn-oncology surgeon. I've been followed at Mayo Clinic since then. It was during a follow-up that the "polyp" was found in the vaginal cuff. And yes, every time I'm been seen a speculum is used. I'm wondering why would a gyn-oncologist not use a speculum? I'm not a medical professional but I wonder how they could visualize the entire vagina without a speculum?

You've been through so much with endometrial cancer, recurrence, and then breast cancer. How are you feeling? How do you take care of you?

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I make sure I get all my tests, this year I had a ultra sound and digital mammogram on both breasts. I also get a CT of my pelvis, abdomen and chest every 6 months but my oncologist has decided that that should be done annually, we will see about that?
I also had an mri on my abdomen and pelvis this year. I also just had an endoscopy and colonoscopy this month. I have a gyno oncologist and a regular oncologist I’m not taking the risk that one might miss something and an oncologist. Plus all my blood tests required. Years ago I had a pet scan, a year later I had another and was told that the cancer did show on the first pet scan. I now know the scans are only as good as the person reading them. One try’s to be as proactive as one can in order to feel that one has done everything they can. My friend said better to find any issues and deal with them than not to know. I also and to Sutter Medical, Stanford for a second opinion and a third at the Mayo Clinic.

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@callalloo

A friend asked what Olivia Newton-John's death meant to me, having recently had a lumpectomy for breast cancer. I said that aside from the dismay and compassion for the pain and discomfort she suffered, my take-away is that someone can live 30 years after an initial, aggressive cancer and have a life of continuing value! That is not the breast cancer experience I heard about growing up and is already a game-changer.

On the darker side, my PCP mentioned that when he was in medical school, 30 years ago, the risk for breast cancer was less than half of what it is today. Some of that can be explained by the fact that many more cases of breast cancer are identified by advanced screening and a higher percentage of women having mammograms. But the actual per capita numbers for breast cancer are increasing too. Women's bodies are sometimes thought of as the canaries in the coal mine as early responders to pollutants, contaminated food, et al. I don't what it will take to unite everyone to demand environmental responsibility and de-throne corporate control of the food chain but I suspect women will be the major force behind ant meaningful change, if only to protect children. Clearly cancer cells are finding opportunities to exist and we haven't closed that vector yet.

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Im not so sure I believe all this. I think its the medications that are killing us. How can we 100 percent trust our pathologists or radiologist? Maybe its a hormonal thing that we are naturally supposed to go through since most get it during menopause and post menopausal. Has anyone every teated a woman who has no breast cancer but volunteered to do a breast biopsy and was told she was er positive and progesterone positive and her negative but cancer free? How many have gone through their menopause journey with no meds and just recover naturally. Our estrogen will drop alot after that. And finally, why arent we getting monitored for our estrogen and progesterone levels every 6 months and monitor it that way, im not buying because they say it fluctuates because thats all fine and dandy but it will and could drop naturally with safer meds. So yes, money unfortunately plays a big role in my opinion

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@jeanadair123

I make sure I get all my tests, this year I had a ultra sound and digital mammogram on both breasts. I also get a CT of my pelvis, abdomen and chest every 6 months but my oncologist has decided that that should be done annually, we will see about that?
I also had an mri on my abdomen and pelvis this year. I also just had an endoscopy and colonoscopy this month. I have a gyno oncologist and a regular oncologist I’m not taking the risk that one might miss something and an oncologist. Plus all my blood tests required. Years ago I had a pet scan, a year later I had another and was told that the cancer did show on the first pet scan. I now know the scans are only as good as the person reading them. One try’s to be as proactive as one can in order to feel that one has done everything they can. My friend said better to find any issues and deal with them than not to know. I also and to Sutter Medical, Stanford for a second opinion and a third at the Mayo Clinic.

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I agree, maybe were getting misinformed. Training needs to rest with reading radiologist. Our life and decisions are in their hands. I have two ct in two different hospitals. The first one showed me a mulitude of issues, second one just showed a cyst. Theirs something fishy going in our country.

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@rbaltzley

I agree, maybe were getting misinformed. Training needs to rest with reading radiologist. Our life and decisions are in their hands. I have two ct in two different hospitals. The first one showed me a mulitude of issues, second one just showed a cyst. Theirs something fishy going in our country.

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My friends ask how do I get so many tests done?
I always tell my drs that my friends ask that question so my doctors make sure I get all my necessary tests so I don’t fall through the cracks again.
Since I have two oncologists and a gynecologist I can always get one of them to order a test I need.

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