From “Misery” to “American Horror Story,” Kathy Bates has always proven herself to be a badass lady with incredible talent. But it’s the 69-year-old’s attitude toward cancer — and the body issues connected with it — that truly inspires us.
Bates was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in 2012 after suffering severe abdominal pain she initially assumed was due to stress. An ovarian cancer survivor whose mother and aunt both died of cancer, Bates didn’t hesitate to undergo a double mastectomy to treat the breast cancer.
After the procedure, Kathy decided she would not get reconstructive surgery to rebuild her breasts.
“I’ve joined the ranks of women who are going flat, as they say,” Bates says. “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.”
Following the surgery, during which doctors also removed 19 lymph nodes that led to the development of her lymphedema (a painful condition in which too much fluid accumulates in the lymph nodes and that is often a result of a double mastectomy), Bates decided she didn’t want to be operated on again.
Compared to the way Bates felt pressured about keeping her previous cancer diagnosis under wraps, this stark honesty feels like a breath of fresh air to her.
“Back in 2003, when I had ovarian cancer, my agent told me not to tell anyone about it,” she says. “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. But then I saw Melissa Etheridge doing a concert and just wailing on her guitar with her bald head, and I thought, ‘Wow, I wanna be her!’ So when the breast cancer diagnosis came, I knew I wanted to be honest about it.”
At the end of the day, having reconstructive surgery — or not! — is a deeply personal and emotional decision for any woman to make. The only thing that matters is, like Kathy, to do what is right for you.