Actress Kathy Bates opens up about her battle with cancer

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - Everyone has a favorite Kathy Bates role but few know that one of her most important was two-time cancer survivor.

FOX 32’s Jake Hamilton had the chance to talk with the Oscar-winning actress about her battles with cancer. 

Bates, who is best known for her roles in Misery, Primary Colors, Dolores Clairborne, Titanic, and The Waterboy, was recently in Chicago speaking about her two battles with cancer, first ovarian and then breast.

Bates spoke about why she originally decided to go public with her diagnosis and why she was originally told to stay silent.

“Well at the very beginning back in 2003, my manager said don't come out about ovarian cancer. She didn’t want me to become the poster child. And I did that," Bates said. "I really hid and kept it private from everybody and then I remember seeing Melissa Etheridge doing a concert on television and she was very open about her breast cancer and she wasn't ashamed to come out with her bald head and I thought, 'Why am I hiding?'"

Bates said she decided to use her celebrity status to bring awareness and help other people.

"When I had breast cancer, especially because it really runs like a river in my family, I thought you know what, thousands and thousands of women are suffering from this and if I can come out and use my celebrity to help other people, I know when I got notes from the mothers of friends who said, 'I'm a survivor for 16 years there is life ahead,' I so appreciated and was so touched," Bates said.

Bates said it was her close friend, actress Lynn Redgrave who died in 2010 from breast cancer, that encouraged her to keep moving forward in spite of the diagnosis.

"My friend Lynn Redgrave who had stage five breast cancer, at the time she was still alive and I said, 'You know, I'm supposed to go do this movie but I'm still not over the operation yet.' She said, 'Go do it,' and I said why and she said, 'Because your character doesn't have cancer,' Bates said. "And you know she's right because when we play like that, we really pretend we are these people and for those, you know, 12 hours out of the day, I got to just escape."

Bates spoke extensively about the warning signs that helped her get diagnosed early and what she would tell others thinking of getting checked out.

"Well I would tell them to go to the doctor right away. Whether it's breast cancer or anything else. You are your own first line of defense, really," Bates said.

"I was lucky with ovarian because I my best girlfriend came to visit me for my birthday and she said you don't look right. And when you've known somebody for 35 years who says that, then you pay attention and I was really, really lucky to catch the ovarian because that's the silent killer," Bates said.

Bates said it was during a trip to Paris where she realized something wasn't quite right, prompting her to visit her doctor when she returned home.

"Now, I feel that I kind of got to my breast cancer just a little late. My doctor would have been happier if I had gotten there sooner and something I talk about in the speech today, I was going on a trip to Paris and we were going down south and we were in the car and I was just pressing my foot on the floorboard of the car and I thought later, 'Why were you doing that,' Bates said. "And it was like I didn't want to go. Something was telling me not to go. And sure enough when I got home and I wasn't feeling great and I went and got the MRI, instead of it being the ovarian coming back, it was the breast."

For more information on breast cancer awareness, visit National-breast-cancer.org

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