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Olivia Newton-John and Hoda Kotb bonded over their breast cancer diagnoses during a Today interview on Wednesday.
“We’re sisters,” the Grease star told Kotb when she learned of Kotb's battle with the disease. “Anyone that has gone on this journey with cancer, it’s unknown destinations and surprises and turns.”
Newton-John, 73, is living with stage four breast cancer; Kotb was treated in 2007 for the cancer and is now cancer-free.
Hoda Kotb and Olivia Newton-John share a common battle: Both have lived with breast cancer. And because of their diagnoses, they say, the anchor and the pop star are practically family.
During a Today interview marking the 40-year anniversary of Newton-John’s hit song “Physical” on Wednesday, Kotb, 57, bonded with the actress-musician about her experience with breast cancer. “A long time ago, I was diagnosed with cancer,” the Today host recalled. “I remember them finding a lump, and I said, ‘Oh, you [must] be mistaken.’”
According to Breastcancer.org, about one in eight U.S. women (about 13%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among American women. And in 2021, it's estimated that about 30% of newly diagnosed cancers in women will be breast cancers.
“I’m really sorry you went through that,” said a surprised Newton-John, 73. “I didn’t know you went through that. You’re well now? You’re feeling good?”
“Yes, I am feeling good,” Kotb responded, holding back tears. “By the way, I’m just going to pause for a second. Another wonderful thing about you is what you just did there. Thank you. Thank you for asking.”
“Oh, of course,” the Grease star responded. “We’re sisters. Anyone that has gone on this journey with cancer—it’s unknown destinations and surprises and turns.”
Newton-John was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992, then again in 2013; both times, it went into remission. In 2017, the singer learned she was battling the disease for a third time—now as stage four cancer, which had spread to her spine.
Per the American Cancer Society (ACS), stage four cancers have metastasized, or spread to parts of the body other than where they first appeared. Cancers at this stage are considered “incurable,” the ACS explains. But treatment can shrink or slow tumors, allowing people with stage four cancer to lead full lives.
Newton-John, who calls herself a “thriver,” has always had a positive outlook. “Three times lucky, right?” she said in an interview with The Guardian last year. “Listen, I think every day is a blessing. You never know when your time is over; we all have a finite amount of time on this planet, and we just need to be grateful for that.”
“I see it as my life’s journey. It gave me purpose and intention and taught me a lot about compassion,” she continued, saying she wanted to combat the notion that stage four cancer is a “death sentence.” “It has been a gift. I don’t wish it on anyone else. But for me, it’s been important in my life.”
These days, the icon is still in good spirits. “Right now, I’m feeling pretty good,” Newton-John continued in the Today interview. “I have my days and I have my pains, but the cannabis that my husband grows for me has been such a huge part of my healing, and so I’m a really lucky person.”
“You know what I see when I look in your eyes?” Kotb asked Newton-John. “I see the optimism that I saw when [former Today anchor] Jane Pauley interviewed you.”
“I think it’s been my blessing in life to have that in my personality,” Newton-John answered. “I don’t know how I would have done otherwise.”
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