Playing a doctor on TV definitely doesn’t make you an expert in real life, and no one understands that more than Kate Walsh.
You’d think that after years on set for “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Private Practice,” she’d feel at home in a hospital. But she’s the first to tell you it’s quite the opposite. After being diagnosed with a brain tumor two years ago, she’s encouraging others to conquer that fear of seeing a doctor.
Walsh recently revealed to Cosmopolitan that she learned she had a benign meningioma in 2015, and since then, she’s had it removed and has been in recovery.
But she doesn’t recommend others find out the way she did. The actress explained to Cosmopolitan:
“My pilates instructor said ‘hey, your right side is dipping,’ and it didn’t feel like I was off, but I looked down and could see it,” she said. “Then when I was driving, I started swerving into the right lane. The exhaustion got to the point where I could drink five cups of coffee and still not feel awake or clear. 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.”
After pushing to have an MRI done, a lemon-sized tumor was found in her left frontal lobe. She was, in part, relieved to have found it and was more than ready to have it removed, but it certainly wasn’t something she’d been expecting to discover.
“The words ‘brain tumor’ were never in my zeitgeist,” she told Cosmpolitan. “[The radiologist] starts to say, ‘Well, it looks like you have a very sizable brain tumor’ — and I just left my body. My assistant had driven me there, and I had to go get him so that he could take notes because I was gone. It was never anything I would have imagined.”
She’s learned a lot from this experience, and since recovering, she’s ready to talk about the diagnosis and encourage others to take control of their health.
“There’s this idea that doctors are gods, and you can’t approach them, like they have superpowers,” she told Cosmopolitan. “You just have to keep talking, keep asking questions. I think of myself as a very strong, proactive person, but still there’s this anxiety that comes up, and the idea that healthcare is an ivory tower, and you don’t want to bother the geniuses. But everybody’s health is their own experience, and you have to keep a dialogue going.”
To reach a broad audience, she’s teamed up with Cigna along with actors such as Patrick Dempsey and Jane Seymour in their TV Doctors of America campaign.
They’re hoping to encourage others to make going to the doctor a regular occurrence, not just a reactionary measure. According to the Centers for Disease Control, if everyone in America got the preventative healthcare they needed, it would save more than 100,000 lives each year.
If you visit the TV Doctors of America website, you’ll learn about everything from how to prepare for a check-up to what exactly preventative healthcare can tell you about your body.
So, take some advice from Walsh (aka Dr. Addison): The sooner you take control of your health, the better.