What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Isn’t that right, Kathy Bates?
The actress opened up to WebMD on Monday about her 2012 stage II breast cancer diagnosis. After surviving ovarian cancer in 2003, Bates, 69, underwent a double mastectomy.
Following the procedure she began to experience “strange pains” in her hands along with swelling in her arms. Bates later learned she had a rare condition called lymphedema that occasionally occurs when lymph nodes are removed in cancer-related surgeries.
Bates’ mother also underwent a mastectomy and suffered from Lymphedema.
“My mother had a radical mastectomy — they took everything — and her arm swelled terribly,” recalled the “American Horror Story” star.
“She was always a very smart dresser and wore very nice clothes, and after the surgery, she couldn’t fit into them anymore. It was a real slide into her feeling ‘less than.’ And so I remember getting hysterical when, even in the hospital, I noticed strange pains in my hands and then discovered that my arms were swelling,” continued Bates.
While lymphedema is incurable, Bates has been undergoing physical therapy for some time. The actress told WebMD that weight loss helped tremendously in relieving some of her symptoms.
Additionally, Bates has made sure to avoid excessive heat and limit her consumption of alcohol.
She’s been outspoken about her battle with Lymphedema, advocating for others with the condition. The actress has also been very public about her double mastectomy in the hopes that she’ll contribute to breaking the stigma surrounding what she called, “going flat.”
“Back in 2003, when I had ovarian cancer, my agent told me not to tell anyone about it,” said Bates. “Even my gynecologist, whose husband worked in the business, warned that I shouldn’t come out with it because of the stigma in Hollywood. So I was very careful. But then 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!’ So when the breast cancer came, I knew I wanted to be honest about it.”
Bates spoke in depth about her battles with cancer in June 2012. At the time, she said she’d been quiet about it because she didn’t want it to define her as a person.
“I want to be defined by my own essence,” said Bates during a speech at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.