Kate Walsh may have spent a huge chunk of her career playing Dr. Addison Montgomery on Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice, but recently, she spent time at a hospital that wasn't Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital. In a new interview with Cosmopolitan, Walsh revealed she had a brain tumor, and even though it's obviously an impossibly scary situation to go through, her outlook on the ordeal is so positive, especially since she's using her experience to encourage others to get the medical care they need that could save their lives.
According to what Walsh told the magazine, she first began to realize that something was wrong in January 2015. After struggling with exhaustion, losing dexterity in her right side, and having issues with her speech, Walsh was diagnosed with a lemon-sized meningioma in June that year, and had to undergo surgery to have it removed.
Fortunately, the tumor was benign, and it sounds like she's doing much better these days. Still, it's not surprising that it's had a huge impact on her life. Originally, she thought her symptoms could be signs of exhaustion or menopause, but she pushed to see a neurologist, listening to a gut feeling that something more serious was at play. And now, she wants to let other people know how important advocating for yourself in a medical environment really is.
Walsh told Cosmo:
"The words 'brain tumor' were never in my zeitgeist. I went in for the MRI, and you know it’s serious when they don’t even wait, they’re like 'hey, the radiologist wants to see you.' And she starts to say, 'Well, it looks like you have a very sizable brain tumor' — and I just left my body. My assistant had driven me there, and I had to go get him so that he could take notes, because I was gone. It was never anything I would have imagined."
From there, things happened fast. Three days after her MRI, she was in surgery, and since doctors were able to remove the entire tumor, she was able to begin the healing process. However, she did spend plenty of time in the hospital, where she said she was a "little scaredy-cat." She got through it with the help of her mom, and along the way, she realized exactly how necessary it is to fight for yourself and your health, rather than being intimidated by doctors.
"There’s this idea that doctors are gods, and you can’t approach them, like they have superpowers. You’re like 'oh, I hate to ask you…' whether it’s about billing or test results or whatever. You just have to keep talking, keep asking questions. I think of myself as a very strong, proactive person, but still there’s this anxiety that comes up, and the idea that healthcare is an ivory tower, and you don’t want to bother the geniuses. But everybody’s health is their own experience, and you have to keep a dialogue going. If I’m nervous about an appointment now, I bring a friend with me. You don’t have to go it alone."
Walsh's words are important, not just because they could change the way someone approaches their own health, but because it emphasizes the fact that no one is immune to feeling overwhelmed by doctors and medical treatment. Healthcare can be inaccessible to so many people — not just financially, but also in trying to understand how to make sure you're getting the best care possible, too. Asking questions is a vital part of taking care of your own body, and it doesn't have to be a scary thing.
And now that Walsh has come out of the ordeal on the other side, she also pointed out that it's especially important for women to take time to get the care they need, even if they don't want to ask for help.
"One of the most interesting things for me about this diagnosis was that this tumor is twice as common in women as men," she said. "It can be especially hard for women to take time out for their health — you’re mothers, you’re career women, you’re spinning all of these plates, and it’s hard sometimes to hand over the superwoman cape and ask for help."
She also appeared on The Today Show on Monday morning to talk about her tumor, as well as the MRI that she had to convince doctors to give her, saying with a laugh, "they don't had them out all the time." It's scary to think that she had to push for one, but it's just another way of showing how important it is to advocate for yourself.
It's a relief to hear that Walsh is healthy after such a scary experience, and that she's using it to help others who could be facing something similar. She's right — being proactive in your own health can be so intimidating, but it's something that's necessary to getting the most out of your life. Walsh's words will undoubtedly make a difference.