Actress Kathy Bates was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2003, but not many people knew about it.
In an interview with WebMD, the Oscar winner revealed that her agent told her not to tell anyone about her diagnosis, believing that it would have a negative impact on her career.
“Back in 2003, when I had ovarian cancer, my agent told me not to tell anyone about it,” Bates, 69, told WebMD.
“Even my gynecologist, whose husband worked in the business, warned that I shouldn’t come out with it because of the stigma in Hollywood,” she continued. “So I was very careful.”
Following her stage II breast cancer diagnosis in 2012, Bates didn’t stay quiet for long. She was inspired by singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge.
“I saw Melissa Etheridge doing a concert and just wailing on her guitar with her bald head, and I thought, ‘Wow, I wanna be her!'” Bates recalled. “So when the breast cancer diagnosis came, I knew I wanted to be honest about it.”
After the breast cancer was discovered, Bates underwent a double mastectomy and had 19 lymph nodes removed.
“I was in a lot of pain for weeks and weeks — and I was very angry,” she said about the surgeries. “It was an awful time.”
Since her double mastectomy, Bates has made the decision not to have reconstructive surgery.
“I’ve joined the ranks of women who are going flat, as they say,” she said. “I don’t have breasts — so why do I have to pretend like I do? That stuff isn’t important. I’m just grateful to have been born at a time when the research made it possible for me to survive. I feel so incredibly lucky to be alive.”
Bates has gone on to play four more characters in the American Horror Story series including, Ethel Darling, Iris, The Butcher (re-enactment) and Agnes Mary Winstead.
She is working a new Netflix series called Disjointed where she plays the owner of a marijuana dispensary.
Bates has also become an advocate and spokesperson for the Lymphatic Education & Research Network.
Lymphatic Education & Research Network is committed to educating the public about lymphatic disease and the need for treatment and research.
— Kathy Bates (@MsKathyBates) February 24, 2016
According to the Mayo Clinic, there is no cure for lymphedema, chronic lymphatic disease that results in disfiguring swelling in one or more parts of the body. Treatment focuses on reducing the swelling and controlling the pain.
Treatments for lymphedema include exercises, wrapping your arm or leg, massage, pneumatic compression, compression garments and complete decongestive therapy.
According to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, breast cancer will affect at least one in nine Canadian women.
The Canadian Cancer Society estimates that an average of 70 Canadian women is diagnosed with breast cancer every day; an average of 13 dies every day.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Canadian women and is the second-leading cause of death from cancer in Canadian women.
—With files from Dani-Elle Dube