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Home health Two Times Cancer Survivor Kathy Bates - Her Story in Full

Two Times Cancer Survivor Kathy Bates - Her Story in Full

Matthew Published On Sat Dec 28 2019   Modified On Fri Jan 03 2020
Two Times Cancer Survivor Kathy Bates - Her Story in Full

Two time cancer survivor-Kathy Bates cancer struggles in full.

Remember that talkative yet kind soul that helps Leonardo Dicaprio’s character Jack dress for a lavish posh dinner? The Unsinkable Molly Brown? Yes, that kind soul is American actress Kathy Bates. The theater actress turned movie star received quite a lot of stardom from movies after she received her first real big break at the age of 42. 

Kathy Bates portraying the role of Molly Brown in the film Titanic. She wears a classic black dress and looks quite young.

Kathy Bates as Molly Brown in Titanic.
Source: Fanpop

Born June 28, 1948, as Kathleen Doyel Bates in Memphis, Tennessee, Kathy always had an interest in acting. After attending the Southern Methodist University where she studies theater, Kathy moved to New York to pursue her acting career.

With little appearances on screen, Kathy tasted the most success in theater roles. She managed to earn a Tony nomination for the Best Lead Actress in a Play in 1983 for ‘night, Mother and won an Obie Award in 1988 for her role in Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune.

Watch: Misery (1990) - Official Trailer

It was very unusual for an actress with minimal film credits to appear out of nowhere in a lead role, but director Rob Reiner took a chance with Kathy Bates in the 1990 movie 'Misery'. That chance paid off and Kathy won her first Oscar for Best Actress. Since then Bates went to gather a whopping 125 movie credits and also win two Emmy Awards, and two Golden Globe Awards in the process. However, her most impressive achievement came not from her career but from beating two different forms of cancer in a single lifetime. Here’s the full story.

2003: Stage 1 Ovarian Cancer

Kathy Bates first got diagnosed with stage 1 ovarian cancer in 2003. The actress was working on the movie “Little Black Book” appearing besides Brittany Murphy. Bates desperately needed the money and also didn’t want to lose this opportunity of working with Murphy. But this meant she had to be on set ready to act right after mere three weeks of her surgery and chemotherapy.

Kathy Bates wearing a red dress in an award function.

Kathy Bates was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2003.
Source: Pinterest

Talking about her experience then, Bates said, 

I needed the payday, I wanted to work with her.

Post-surgery, Kathy explained how she had to deal with difficulties controlling her bowel movements saying,

When you’re on set you don’t want to have to be running to the restroom every time, so that was really hard. I lost patience with people when things would be draggy. You really can’t do that on a movie set because things are going to go at the pace they’re going to go and yelling about it isn’t going to help. 

Then came her struggles with steroids that she received during her treatment. She put it into words as

You come off of the steroids, and I just found that the hardest part. It was like detoxing. I was shaking, I couldn’t talk, and I remember I had to go do a voiceover and it was just so, so difficult.

Apart from that, her agent asked Kathy to keep the cancer news under wraps. Due to the stigma in Hollywood, she was cautious not to let the details of her struggle hit the news.

Kathy, nevertheless, did the movie and finished it despite cancer, she said, knocked the stuffing out of her.

2012: Breast Cancer and Lymphedema

Kathy Bates came from a family that had a long history of breast cancer. Nine years after her ovarian cancer diagnosis, Kathy received another devastating news her doctor told her that she had a tumor in her left breast. 

Kathy Bates, who underwent double mastectomy after breast cancer diagnosis, in front of a microphone.

Kathy Bates underwent double mastectomy after breast cancer diagnosis.
Source: CBS News

As Bates said in the episode of Dr. Phil, “Breast cancer runs like a river in my family”, she decided to get double mastectomy instead of just having one removed. Not wanting to take a chance, Kathy was also nervous about getting Lymphedema. Medical News Today describes Lymphedema as a long-term condition where excess fluid collects in tissues causing swelling (edema).

Watch: Kathy Bates On Learning She Has Lymphedema: You Think American Horror Story Is Scary?

Admitting about her fears to Dr. Phil, Kathy revealed,

I was very nervous about getting something called Lymphedema. I had a boyfriend at the time who had it in his left arm, and it was in the worst stage. I was absolutely terrified. Sure enough in the hospital I started feeling these weird things, almost like little lightning of pain and I didn’t know if that was it or not but shortly after that my arm started to swell and I knew that was it.

After her surgery, when the 71 years old actress learned that 22 of her lymph nodes had been removed, she did not take the news so well. As Bates recollected,

I went berserk. I left the examining room and ran out of the building. I still had my drains in, I was holding a pillow to my tits, and I thought, ‘What am I doing? It’s July, I’m standing out here, it’s hot, I’m still healing, I don’t want to hurt anything.’

Looking back at how she was depressed because for her having Lymphedema was more devastating that having her breasts removed, the actress now calls herself one of the lucky ones after seeing so many worst cases of Lymphedema.

Watch: Kathy Bates & Her Struggle with Lymphedema - LE&RN

The Dolores Caliborne actress made the most out of her life even though she suffered from two different forms of cancer. Kathy not only supports Lymphedema patients through the LE&RN organization but she also freely talks about her struggles with the diseases, trying to inspire and teach people about it. 

For more articles on celebrity health, check out the health section over at Idol Persona.