In 2017, Olivia’s breast cancer came back with a vengeance. She was diagnosed with stage four metastatic cancer, a string of four words you never want to hear from a doctor. Her cancer had spread from her breast to her bones, causing painful fractures of the hip and pelvis region, leaving her unable to walk for a period of time.
Alongside conventional surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy, Olivia enlisted the help of medical cannabis to help her tackle oftentimes debilitating symptoms.
Olivia’s Choice to survive stage four cancer
Her husband, John Easterling, owns a medicinal botanical company and grows medical cannabis on the grounds of their ranch in California, a state with legalized medical and recreational cannabis. The cultivated cannabis is then extracted and formulated into an oral tincture ready for Olivia to consume every day to help with her symptoms.
The tincture, aptly known as Olivia’s Choice, is a blend of two specially-crafted formulations: Extract One Tincture and Extract Two Oil.
Extract Two Oil is a percentage of the Extract One Tincture that gets run through a high-heat distiller, causing the decarboxylation of the aforementioned acid, which turn into cannabidiol (CBD), tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and cannabigerol (CBG) — amongst others.
The final blend carries roughly 1500mg of cannabinoid and terpene-rich “oil”. She consumes approximately 600mg of THC and 200mg of CBD per day, which is a sizeable daily amount but enough to reduce her symptoms quite dramatically.
According to The Guardian, Olivia was “nervous” about her first experience consuming cannabis but “could really see the benefits” once she started using it, believing it helps with sleep, anxiety, and pain.
Cancer and the Olivia Newton-John Foundation
As a result of her newfound interest in cannabis, as well as other natural remedies, she established the Olivia Newton-John Foundation that aims to fund deeper research into alternative holistic therapies for cancer.
Newton-John is no stranger to cancer. She was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992, shortly after the death of her father. She received extensive chemotherapy treatment and surgical procedures to remove one of her breasts.
After being involved in a car accident in 2013, she found out cancer had returned in her shoulder. She opted to receive hormone treatment, an adjuvant therapy designed to reduce cancer by blocking estrogen from reaching cancer cells.
She hopes for alternative and holistic remedies for cancer will become available to more people in the future.
What we know about cannabis for cancer and cancer-related symptoms
Cannabis as a solid relief from cancer-related pain
Cannabis as a treatment for cancer and cancer-related pain is nothing new. It has been used as an alternate method of pain-relief in various clinical trials in countries with legalized medical or recreational marijuana. Not only is it an excellent remedy for general pain (chronic or otherwise), but it’s also used for specific cancer-related pain as well.
In a 2017 review of cannabis for cancer pain management, a combination of low THC (2.7–10.8 mg) and low CBD (2.5–10.0 mg) doses provided significant analgesic qualities in cancer patients. The authors noted that there’s some room to suggest cannabis alleviated chronic and neuropathic pain in advanced cancer patients but more studies need to be conducted before they could say anything conclusive.
Cannabis to ease cancer-related anxiety, fear, and worry
Varieties of cannabis (hemp and marijuana) can ease symptoms of anxiety, fear, and worry. Hemp and hemp-derived products such as CBD flower, CBD oil, and CBD concentrate carry high percentages of CBD and low percentages of THC (<0.3%), alongside other beneficial plant compounds. Together, these plant compounds work in synergy to relieve anxiety, stress, fear, and worry without causing intoxication.
Marijuana and marijuana-derived products carry the same plant compounds but with higher percentages of THC. This is where patients must be careful. If the THC dose is too high, it can overstimulate the brain, causing more anxiety, fear, stress, and worry. A CBD and THC balance is recommended for cancer patients. CBD is known to reduce the effects of THC, balancing out the intoxication and reducing anxiety-related side-effects.
Cannabis for chemotherapy nausea and vomiting
According to an old but still relevant review of cannabis for chemotherapy-induced nausea, the authors noted synthetic cannabis (in the form of oral nabilone) and synthetic THC (in the form of oral dronabinol) were more effective than pharma-based antiemetics.
Participants of a cross-over study the authors also covered said they’d consume cannabinoids in the next chemo cycle and praised cannabis for its sedative and sleep-inducing qualities.
Most recently, in 2020, a first-ever clinical trial conducted by the University of Sydney, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, and NHMRC Clinical Trials Centre found natural cannabis (without the use of synthetics) showed significant improvements in nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy.
According to a statement released by the university, these results indicate “medicinal cannabis can help improve quality of life for chemotherapy patients”.
Cannabis compounds (THC + CBD) may reduce cancer cell proliferation and tumor growth
Cannabis consumption may reduce cancer cell proliferation and tumor growth.
In a two-year-long study, groups of mice and rats were fed daily doses of THC. Researchers found the incidences of two main tumors decreased (hepatic adenoma and hepatocellular carcinoma), as well as a reduction in benign tumors (polyps and adenomas).
THC to stimulate appetite and increase the desire for food
Chemotherapy messes with appetite. Many patients experience loss of taste, severe nausea, and other physiological imbalances, causing a lack of desire for food.
Cannabis carrying high percentages of THC is known to dramatically improve appetite in animal test subjects when consumed. THC’s impact on cannabinoid receptors causes an increase in anandamide activity, an endocannabinoid known to significantly boost appetite and the desire for food.
Cannabis, positive thinking, and Olivia’s life in 2021
In an exclusive interview with SurvivorNet, Olivia cites combining conventional cancer treatments, positive thinking, and complementary herbal medicine as her cancer-fighting dream team.
“I’m in a good place. I’m mobile, I’m feeling strong, I’ve put on some weight. Everything’s good…My husband [John Easterling] makes me cannabis tinctures, which he grows for me. Many different herbs have helped me with sleep and pain.”
The wonders of cannabis never cease to amaze. When she was first diagnosed with cancer in 1992, she had a mixture of surgery and chemotherapy. Thanks to cannabis and other alternative herbal supplements, she hasn’t gone through chemo and she doesn’t rely on opioids. Pretty big deal if you ask us.