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“The words “brain tumor” were never in my zeitgeist,” the Grey’s Anatomy alum explains. “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.”
After wrapping starring in and executive producing NBC’s Bad Judge in January 2015, Walsh recalls feeling exhausted and attributed the symptoms to menopause. “The exhaustion got to the point where I could drink five cups of coffee and still not feel awake or clear,” Walsh tells the magazine. “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.”
Walsh recalls swerving when she drove, having difficulty speaking and her pilates instructor informing her that her “right side was dipping.”
Trusting her instincts there was a deeper issue, Walsh went to see a neurologist in order to assess what was occurring with her body. “I got an MRI, and thank God I did, because it turned out I had a very sizable brain tumor in my left frontal lobe. And three days later, I was in surgery having it removed,” she says.
Going through the details of her diagnosis, Walsh explains, “It was over five cm, like a small lemon in my head, causing quite a bit of damage: there was a lot of swelling, and I had started getting shooting pains in my head.” Further adding, “The whole situation was so overwhelming, and I was just so relieved to know there was something wrong, that it wasn’t just my imagination and that my instincts were correct.”
Despite playing a doctor on television, Walsh recalls feeling terrified the day of surgery.
“You’d think that after playing Dr. Addison [Montgomery on Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice] 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,” Walsh said.
After having the removal surgery three days later, Walsh focused her energy on recovery, forcing herself to take time off of work and abide by any and all instructions given by the doctors. After a nine-month hiatus, Walsh returned to work on various projects including Girls Trip and 13 Reasons Why.
Although she’s a self-proclaimed workaholic, the health scare made Walsh reassess what’s important and how she truly wants to spend her time.
“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,” explains Walsh.
Speaking of her health scare for the first time on television, Walsh told NBC’s Today show on Monday that she has a different perspective on life after her recovery. “I want to spend more time with my family and friends. I want to work on projects that I just love, with people that I love. I want to travel, be of service, just do all of the kinds of things that you hear but for real,” said Walsh.
Despite the diagnosis occurring in 2015, Walsh feels that now was the right time to publicly address it, for her experience could be of service to those unaware of the importance of checkups.
“I knew that when I wanted to talk about it, I wanted to be of service in a way. It was a great opportunity to partner with Cigna. It was a perfect opportunity to really emphasize the importance of advocating for your own health. Particularly women, this is a tumor that is twice as common in women as men,” explained Walsh.
Alongside other TV doctors such as former Grey’s co-star Patrick Dempsey, Walsh has joined forces with Cigna to encourage everyone to get annual checkups.
— Kate Walsh (@katewalsh) September 17, 2017
“People in our culture are afraid of medicine and wait until they’re sick, but (it’s) the idea of preventive medicine as opposed to just being reactive as the way we go to the gym,” said Walsh.
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The Fien Print