Kate Walsh had a brain tumor the size of a lemon removed two years ago

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You may have seen the recent TV ads from health insurance provider Cigna, featuring some of your favorite TV doctors. The first ad, which debuted a few weeks ago, featured Alan Alda from M*A*S*H, Noah Wyle from ER, Lisa Edelstein from House (I miss that show), Donald Faison from Scrubs (yup, miss that one too) and Patrick Dempsey from Grey’s Anatomy, encouraging people to get their annual check-ups. There’s a new ad in the “TV Doctors of America” campaign and, along with the return of Donald and Patrick, Neil Patrick Harris and Patrick’s Grey’s co-star Kate Walsh join them to once again spread the word about the importance of annual doctor visits.

Kate, who has spent much of her career playing a doctor on television, was motivated to take part in the campaign after a recent health scare. The 49-year-old actress revealed in an interview with Cosmopolitan that, in June of 2015, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

In recalling the events leading upon to the horrible discovery, Kate said that, after wrapping work on her series Bad Judge in January of 2015, she had been feeling exhausted. “I had been working insane hours, maybe 80 hours a week, and also working out really hard, so I wasn’t surprised.” As time went on, she noticed that she was favoring her right side and having trouble completing sentences.

She finally went to the neurologist and pushed to have an MRI because, as she put it, “they don’t hand out MRIs so easily,” and found out she had a meningeal tumor the size of a lemon in the left frontal lobe of her brain. Upon the discovery, Kate said “I just left my body” and admitted “It was never anything I would have imagined.”

Three days later, she had surgery to have it removed, and discovered that, fortunately, it was benign. After the surgery, Kate recalled, “I was just so relieved to know there was something wrong, that it wasn’t just my imagination and that my instincts were correct.”

Kate, who also shared her story on Monday’s episode of TODAY, confessed that the whole incident was a “very private experience” but “knew that someday I would want to share it.” One of the reasons she did was to let women know that it could happen to them too. She noted, “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.”

And that’s where the Cigna campaign came into play. Kate said of it, “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.” And her take-away from the whole experience is really some sage advice for all of us:

”Go see a doctor! 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, and that’s why I wanted to pair up with Cigna for this campaign. I love the idea of changing the framing around healthcare, and changing it from a reactionary thing — ‘Oh my god, I’m sick, I have to go to the doctor’ — to something more along the lines of preventive care. We should go get a checkup the same way we go to the gym, just preventively, instead of waiting for something to go wrong.”

[From Cosmopolitan]

Brain tumors are scary. I lost a friend to one many years ago. He was just 42, had two young kids and no previous symptoms. You just never know, but Kate’s 100% correct and I’m glad shoes sharing her story to encourage proactive care. I don’t have insurance myself (and I work for an insurance company), so I can’t afford to get checkups. But after this story, I think I’m going to look into my options.

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22 Responses to “Kate Walsh had a brain tumor the size of a lemon removed two years ago”

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  1. Nicole says:

    What a scary experience. I know quite well how quickly a perfectly healthy person can suddenly get very sick. My brother had a very hard health battle as a teen and while he’s fine now (and on medication) those were the scariest months of my life.
    So happy she’s okay now. This is why I believe everyone should have access to great care.
    Also call your reps about ACA this week

    • Esmom says:

      Yes to everything you said. I’m glad your brother is doing well now. My son was diagnosed with a serious medical condition this summer at his annual checkup. If we hadn’t gone when we did he likely would have gotten very sick before it was diagnosed. We are lucky to have the best care…but I am now terrified about how he’s going to manage this for the rest of his life if he doesn’t have access to good insurance once he’s on his own.

      • Nicole says:

        Same here. We have govt insurance through our parents which is the best you can get. But the bills were crazy on top of that. So we were fortunate. We forced my brother to the hospital after he kept losing weight for no reason. It was awful and they thought it was cancer (luckily it was not).
        But 3 surgeries and 2 month hospital stay plus seeing specialists and a psychiatrist adds up. There are so many people that would’ve been bankrupt by the care my brother got. That is unacceptable.
        I’m glad your son is okay. I worry about my brothers insurance all the time. We have several years before it will be an issue thankfully

  2. TeresaMaria says:

    “I don’t have insurance myself (and I work for an insurance company), so I can’t afford to get checkups.”
    As I have said under some previous posts, the health-system in US really scares me.

  3. vanna says:

    This sounds so scary. Stories like this really make me appreciate that my country offers insurance for everybody. I never have to hesitate to go to the hospital or doctor. The US’s insurance system sounds horrible tbh.

  4. L says:

    Why do doctors compare tumors and cysts to citrus?? I had this experience…’it’s about the size of an orange.’ Wtf? Lol!

    • mayamae says:

      My cyst was compared to a softball.

    • Goats on the Roof says:

      It’s easier for many people to grasp the size if it is explained in terms of an everyday object rather than by actual measurements.

      • Who ARE these people? says:

        Yup. Relative had ovarian cyst likened to a grapefruit. Med chart will have measurements,not analogies.

    • Oh-Dear says:

      I live in Alberta. Tunours here are compared to Harvest vegetables. My mother-in-law has a lung cancer tumour the size of ‘small’ squash.

  5. Who ARE these people? says:

    Her statement underscores how women use those gynecologist visits as general checkups. Support Planned Parenthood and call your Senator to oppose the newest and cruelest Trumpcare, the Graham Cassidy amendment.

  6. Ninks says:

    Nothing makes me more grateful to be a European, than stories involving the American healthcare system.

  7. Lorelei says:

    This really hits close to home as the first guy I was truly in love with died of a brain tumor at 27. He was one of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met, so smart and funny and caring and everything he went through was simply horrible. Life really isn’t fair.

  8. lightpurple says:

    I wish her well. My cousin had a similar experience.

    Call your Senators and reps today. Email them. Fax them. Also call & email Senators who are wavering. Graham-Cassidy is in the Senate so focus your energies there today. Call your governors too because Senators are supposed to listen to governors.

    Corey, please look into getting insurance. Check your state’s health connector; it should explain what’s available to you based on income and whether you can get assistance with premiums. An MRI costs over $1,000. Doctor visits can cost several hundred and when they’re trying to diagnose something, the costs add up rapidly. I needed emergency surgery a few months ago (I’m fine) and the costs were well over $25,000. I paid $400 of that.

  9. Tiffany says:

    That is scary. I am glad that she decided to go to the doctor instead of waiting it out, hoping it will go away. This is why afforable health insurance for all is so damn important.

    Also, Kate needs to do another comedy. I really liked Bad Judge and it was just finding it’s footing towards the end.

  10. Cee says:

    “I don’t have insurance myself (and I work for an insurance company), so I can’t afford to get checkups.”

    How is it possible the company you work for doesn’t give you insurance? This is crazy. America’s healthcare is crazy.

    • Goats on the Roof says:

      It’s possible her job offers insurance but the premium is too expensive to manage. Happens a lot.

    • LV426 says:

      Cee, in direct response to your question, at my job I do insurance verifications and benefit checks every day and so many of the WORST plans are for people who work at insurance companies. Sky-high deductibles and out-of-pockets maxes. BCBS and Aetna are noteable examples. They both have a lot of very good plans, they just aren’t usually available to people who actually work at the companies themselves.

  11. manda says:

    She really does look like a young catherine deneuve

  12. LV426 says:

    A few years ago I noticed a lump on my neck and immediately freaked out because I’m kinda dramatic :) I was also not making much money and had a pretty bad insurance plan and since my doctors told me to “watch and wait,” I pushed it out of my mind the best I could, because when you can’t afford thousands of dollars of tests, sometimes you use magical thinking. I did, anyway. Because it “could have been anything.”

    Over a year later I had slightly better insurance and a new pcp who told me, kindly but seriously, that I did need to follow up immediately, and bite the bullet and have tests a biopsy, because the fact the lump was still there was bad. Not long after that, I was all plugged in for my first day of chemo, feeling really lucky that even after all that time had passed, we’d caught it fairly early. I had Stage 2 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (the same kind as Michael C. Hall which comforted me in a weird way, love him) and I’ve been in remission for three years next week. I was 30 when I felt the lump for the first time and I now can’t believe that I spent so much time telling myself “I don’t have cancer, because I can’t afford to have cancer.” Except I can, because even though the fear of debt goes away in the moment you hear “You have cancer and you will die in a few years if you don’t start treatment as soon as you can” it’s still a real problem! It never stops being a problem. I was so lucky because the insurance was okay and my parents helped me a lot.

    ACA has meant I can choose a plan that lets me afford those follow-up scans and blood work. (CT and PET scans are, well, kind of a lot.) It’s meant I can make sure my oncologist is in-network before purchasing a plan. It’s meant I could choose not to go with the not-great options available through various jobs and pick a plan that will let me afford to get treatment if I relapse or if something else happens. It meant when I got laid off about a year out of recovery I didn’t have to worry about my insurance, it meant I had Medicaid once my ins company went under and I hadn’t found a job yet, and currently it means I have a good plan while I work for a business so small they can’t even do a group insurance plan.

    TLDR; I’m glad she is speaking out; I found out I had cancer in my early thirties so yes, it can happen to anyone (they still don’t even know what causes the kind I had and no, I don’t smoke but that isn’t a cause of HL); it breaks my heart and terrifies me to think of now many people like me might NEVER follow up on something like a lump or another symptom because it’s so, so, expensive; call your senators, call your senators, call your senators! I live in Oregon and mine are two real good guys and I still call them to ask them to please do what they can.

  13. Brittney B says:

    One of my college friends had terrible headaches for months, and no one could figure it out… until they found two brain tumors. She’s not even 30 yet, and it’s humbling & devastating to see her go through this. Her surgeons just successfully removed the first and worst, and it wasn’t malignant, but she has another surgery and lots of recovery ahead. Brain tumors can happen to anyone, at any time.