Kathy Bates says she was told not to reveal her cancer diagnosis because it might impact her career

Hollywood legend and star of American Horror Story and Titanic Kathy Bates says that when she got cancer, she was told to hide the diagnosis lest it have a negative impact on her career.

The 69-year-old actress, who has been nominated for three Oscars and won one, was speaking to WebMD about her battle with lymphedema where she opened up about how, in 2003 when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, she was told to lie about it.

“Back in 2003, when I had ovarian cancer, my agent told me not to tell anyone about it,” she revealed. “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.”

Bates, who has starred in movies such as MiseryAbout Schmidt, and Revolutionary Road, shared how she decided to speak out after she saw Melissa Etheridge, who also suffered with cancer, perform a concert.

“[She was]  just wailing on her guitar with her bald head, and I thought, ‘Wow, I wanna be her,’” Bates said. “So, when the breast cancer diagnosis came, I knew I wanted to be honest about it.” 

It was in 2012 that Kathy Bates was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer. Given her family’s history with the disease, she decided to have a double mastectomy. Along with that surgery, she also had 19 lymph nodes removed, too. All of this can lead to lymphedema, which causes the swelling of the legs or arms due to fluid retention.

“I was in a lot of pain for weeks and weeks — and I was very angry,” she recalled. “It was an awful time.”

Following the surgery, Bates — who is now a spokesperson for the Lymphatic Education & Research Network — said that she opted to not have reconstructive surgery.

“I’ve joined the ranks of women who are going flat, as they say,” she said. ” “I don’t have breasts — so why do I have to pretend like I do? That stuff isn’t important. I’m just grateful to have been born at a time when the research made it possible for me to survive.”

“I feel so incredibly lucky to be alive,” she added.

Thankfully, Kathy is doing well and undergoing treatment for her lymphedema. In fact, she has actually been working on a new sitcom with Netflix, Disjointed, which premieres on August 25th.

For more information about lymphedema visit here.