Look at me, I’m Sandra Dee…

Unfortunately I was recently ill and missed out on another amazing Business Chicks event… but I sent my team member Siobhan Feldt along, who is my guest blogger for today! Please welcome…

I have never been overly awestruck by celebrities… I’m not the kind of person who screams and blubbers over rock stars, I don’t tend to ask movie/TV stars for their autographs in the street! However, yesterday I got the opportunity to attend a fabulous event hosted by our friends, Business Chicks. The guest speaker? OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN! OMG! I, like most women my age, grew up watching Grease every weekend and I can still, to this day recite it word for word, song for song. Sandy, Danny, Frenchy, Rizzo and Kenickie were my idols for much of my adolescence. Danny’s swivelling hips and jaunty saunter were particular favourites… Needless to say, while I was sad for my lovely sister/boss, the fact that she was sick and unable to attend the event had a massive silver lining for me – I got to see Sandy (whoops! Olivia) in person!

As I sat in a room full of really impressive, high-powered business women (and the odd man – who are few and far between at these events as discovered recently by my colleague Tom), I had to giggle to myself as a collective sigh went up as Olivia took the stage – such is the power of ONJ!  On some level I was prepared for this… What I was not prepared for was the woman herself. I was struck by how extraordinarily humble and down to earth she is – a class act all the way! She even hugged Taylah, our admin assistant who is a MASSIVE fan. She assures me that Olivia initiated the hug and therefore it’s not stalker-ish (Between you and me, I don’t think she will wash that top ever again!)

While of course there was the inevitable discussion about Grease and Xanadu, and stories of Dame Edna smashing bottles of Vegemite on doorways to open brand new retreats, it was her philanthropic work that was the most fascinating.

Olivia was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992, the same weekend that her father passed away from liver cancer. She has now been cancer-free for 19 years, but continues to work tirelessly as a cancer research and wellness advocate. Olivia has now lent her name to the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre, based at the Austin Hospital in Melbourne. The vision is to provide world-class medical treatment and supportive care to patients and their families. Her dedication to holistic treatment means that integrated into the service offering is supportive programs such as massage, meditation, music and art therapy, extending the “wellness” and positive thinking philosophy that underpins the approach of Olivia and the centre – caring for the mind, body and spirit… not just the disease.

The primary take away from this event for me was Olivia’s belief in the importance of “mind” in overcoming adversity. While undergoing treatment, Olivia quickly came to realise the importance of positive thinking. This realisation hit home when a friend burst in tears upon being told of her diagnosis. Thinking “I don’t need this” she gave the task of informing others of her diagnosis to her sister and close friend, choosing instead to focus on remaining positive. For me the message here was clear – regardless of the challenge and even when there is very little we can do to help, simply by remaining strong and supportive of our loved ones, friends or colleagues during times of adversity, we can help them to overcome. A powerful message indeed!

Thanks to Business Chicks for hosting the event and for providing the opportunity to listen to the story of an amazing woman… Oh, and for getting Xanadu stuck in my head all day!

To read more about the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre click HERE; or to make a donation click HERE

Head over to Karen Gately’s Facebook page to enter our great ONJ competition!

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