Kate Walsh is opening up about her health.
The actress has just revealed that she was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2015. And now in an interview with Cosmopolitan, Walsh is talking about how her symptoms progressed, her reaction to the diagnosis, having the benign meningioma removed and her recovery.
After working long hours on her TV show Bad Judge in the winter of 2015, Walsh felt worn out. While discussing how her symptoms progressed, Walsh explains, "I had been working insane hours, maybe 80 hours a week, and also working out really hard, so I wasn't surprised. I figured okay, I'll change up my workout routine, I'll go back to mellow stuff like hiking. My pilates instructor said 'hey, your right side is dipping', and it didn't feel like I was off, but I looked down and could see it."
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The actress continues, "Then when I was driving, I started swerving into the right lane. The exhaustion got to the point where I could drink five cups of coffee, and still not feel awake or clear. And then around April, I started having more cognitive difficulties. It felt like aphasia, but it wasn't just not being able to find words; I would lose my train of thought, I wasn't able to finish sentences, and that was when I got really alarmed."
In June, Walsh went to get a MRI, where she received the diagnosis.
"The words 'brain tumor' were never in my zeitgeist," Walsh says. "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 her so that she could take notes, because I was gone. It was never anything I would have imagined."
After the removal, Walsh took some much needed time off. But when she got back, she really hit the ground running.
"I took about nine months off, and when I came back, I hit it hard," Walsh says. "I shot a film called Self that's just going to Toronto now, I shot Girls Trip, I shot 13 Reasons Why, I did a play in New York last year, so it was great, once I was back I was really back. Those cliché, existential things do happen when you have a brain tumor, like 'how do I really want to spend my time?' I want to be with my friends and family and work on projects that are hugely important to be, and fun, and that make a cultural contribution. But my health comes first, and I've had to change my lifestyle. In my business, it's not unusual to be working 17 hour days, so it can be really challenging, but now I know I absolutely need seven or eight hours of sleep. As basic as that sounds, it was a huge part of my recovery."
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Walsh played a doctor for many years on Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice, but the actress explains that her experiences didn't make her feel more comfortable in a hospital.
"It was the total opposite!" Walsh says. "You'd think that after playing Dr. Addison for the better part of a decade, where I spent more time on a hospital set than at my house, that I would feel somehow more comfortable, but I was such a little scaredy-cat. In the hospital, I felt like I might as well be six years old. My mother gave me rosary beads, my friend gave me a stuffed animal to go into surgery with. I played a real badass on TV, but when it comes to being a patient it's such a vulnerable experience."
Looking back on her experience, Walsh says that the most important thing she's learned is to go see a doctor.
"Go see a doctor!" Walsh pleas. "We're all so socialized to try to self-diagnose, like 'I'll change my workout, I'll change my diet'. I'm very proactive and willful and independent, and in the past, even though I played a doctor on TV for years, I was not one to go see doctors very often, other than for my annual OB-GYN appointment. So for me, it was a really big wakeup call to do annual check-ups. We should go get a checkup the same way we go to the gym, just preventatively, instead of waiting for something to go wrong."
Walsh also tells the publication that she originally didn't want to share her experience, but now telling her story could help others.
"This was a very private experience for me," she shares. "I really didn't want to talk about it, I wanted it to be mine, but I knew that someday I would want to share it. One of the most interesting things for me about this diagnosis was that this tumor is twice as common in women as men. 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. When the Cigna campaign came along, I thought it was a perfect marriage. I loved the humor of the storytelling, poking fun at TV doctors, and it was a way for me to talk about my own personal experience and be of service to others."
Last week, we told you about Walsh's reunion with Grey's Anatomy co-star Patrick Dempsey for a campaign with Cigna, which also stars two more actors who've played TV doctors, Neil Patrick Harris and Donald Faison.
In the video ad Walsh says, "We're partnering with Cigna to remind you to go see a real doctor."