Women's Health

Oscar Winner Kathy Bates Talks About Learning She Had Ovarian and Breast Cancer

How Oscar-winning Actress Kathy Bates Beat Ovarian and Breast Cancers

Photo: 144638_MP9_8794 by Disney | ABC Television Group

Breast and ovarian cancer are serious diseases that can affect any woman. Both can be terrifying to have, and no woman wants to hear those dreaded words from her doctor.

Cancer is responsible for millions of deaths every year, and though modern medicine has come a long way to treat this disease, there is by no means have a cure just yet. Treatments are often grueling too, and take a huge toll on not only the person's body but also mental health as well.

Kathy Bates fights breast and ovarian cancer

Kathy Bates was no exception. Though she is a famous and successful actress, she too was not spared from the nightmare that is cancer. The 67-year-old movie and television star opens up about her experience battling both breast and ovarian cancer. Her story is an inspiring one of success, as she was able to defeat both diseases that are notorious for requiring complex surgeries and unpleasant treatments. Ovarian cancer is especially known for having a high mortality rate.

After defeating ovarian cancer, Kathy went back to her career right away

In 2003, Kathy went through ovarian cancer treatments. But having cancer didn't slow her down. She went right back to her acting work in 2004 after completing treatments. In 2011, she landed a role in the TV series, "Harry's Law". Unfortunately, the show got canceled just two seasons later despite its popularity and high ratings. Little did Kathy know, this minor setback would turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

Soon after the cancellation of her show, Kathy began having worrisome symptoms.

After the cancellation, Kathy traveled to France to "mourn" the cancellation of her show. It was then that Bates first started to feel some abdominal symptoms. She was worried and decided to go to the doctor.

Kathy finds out she has cancer again

Kathy actually had to fly to the United States for a speaking engagement about her story as a cancer survivor. Ironically, it was during this trip that she ended up going to the doctor about her symptoms. After sharing her inspiring story battling ovarian cancer, she soon discovered that she had breast cancer. An imaging scan was done which revealed the tumor.

Kathy was overwhelmed with different emotions when she got the news.

This was Kathy's second time around battling cancer. At first, she didn't do anything and hunkered down instead. She was now not only dealing with the emotions of the cancellation, but she also was now preparing to battle cancer for the second time.

Kathy tried to run away from her feelings

To try and escape her feelings, Kathy ran away to France. She tried to run away from the problems with her health and her emotions about everything that was happening. But despite physically running away from it as best as she could, she still (of course) ended up thinking quite a lot about the feelings pent up inside her.

Friends were a huge support for Kathy while she went through this emotional time.

It was tough to get through the initial shock of her diagnosis. Through it, all her friends really helped support her through this difficult time. She threw a party at her house for the "mourning" of Harry's Law and invited the rest of the cast and crew from the show.

She was supposed to film a movie in Montreal as well but ended up having to cancel because of her cancer. Before her diagnosis, she had planned to go there to get two Yorkshire Terrier puppies. After deciding not to get the puppies, she changed her mind. After all, she was determined to live, and if she was going to live, she's going to get those puppies! Kathy ended up getting the two puppies she wanted and spent a lot of time enjoying their company in her home.

Kathy had surgery to remove both breasts

Kathy went through a double mastectomy, with her right breast removal being a preventative move. Similar to Angelina Jolie's preventative double mastectomy, Kathy didn't want to take any chances for cancer to come back. Breast cancer runs in her family, and even though she tested negative for the mutation that gives you a higher risk, Kathy didn't want to worry about it for the rest of her life. She felt that the imaging had shown some suspicious things in her right breast too, even though the left breast was the one with the actual tumor.

Kathy didn't have to go through chemo or radiation

Luckily for Kathy, she didn't have to go through radiation and chemotherapy for her breast cancer. She was able to get by with simply finding the right kind of medication, which she will have to continue taking for the next 10 years.

In the aftermath of a breast mastectomy, many women feel bad about the way they look. Breasts are an important part of the feminine figure, and women can feel beautiful or sexy about their curves. At first, Kathy was going to accept herself without the reconstruction, but after looking in the mirror every day and being unhappy with what she saw, she decided that she will probably go ahead with the reconstruction in the future. It's important to feel good about yourself!

Surgery is not something to take lightly, especially for cosmetic reasons

The one thing holding her back at this time is the thought of going through another surgery. Surgery is no joke, and going under anesthesia and trusting somebody, no matter how skilled, to put your under their knife is a scary concept. Complications can arise from any surgery, no matter how many cases a talented surgeon may have under their belt. When it's a decision to go under for cosmetic reasons, Kathy feels it's even more difficult to pull the trigger.

Kathy gets the courage to go through with the surgery

While working on a movie called "Tammy", Kathy met Melissa McCarthy. She was also a survivor too, and she knew exactly what Kathy was struggling with. She confided to her that she had done a DIEP flap reconstruction after her mastectomy, and let Kathy see the results. Kathy was pleasantly surprised to learn that the flap looked really, good, and wasn't weird and heavy like the prosthetics she had been imagining. Melissa really gave Kathy the confidence to get the procedure done in the end.

The actress ended up going to the Center for Breast Reconstruction in New Orleans for a consultation. There, she was recommended for a DIEP flap surgery, similar to Melissa's procedure. Apparently, they have a tattoo artist design areolas in 3D for the patients! After seeing the amazing results, Kathy was in.

At the Center, there are two surgeons who are seasoned in these types of cases. What's supposed to be an 8-hour surgery is only 4-hours at this Center because of their level of expertise and teamwork. While one surgeon works on the tummy, the other one works on reconstruction the breasts. The recovery isn't quite as speedy. After the surgery, Kathy expects to rest for up to 3 months.

Kathy is planning to stay in New Orleans after she films "American Horror Story" so she can get the procedure done.

Kathy feels in touch with her "sisters" who are survivors too

Kathy feels that her experience beating cancer has helped her get in touch with her community on a deeper level. For example, one time she saw a woman wearing a lymphedema sleeve on the plane. These sleeves put compression around the arm reduce the swelling of lymph fluid that is a common problem with women who have had breast tumors removed. The woman also saw Kathy wearing hers, and they both shared their stories. The woman was a survivor too.