Kate Walsh might be best known for playing a doctor on TV, but that doesn’t mean she was prepared to face a health crisis of her own.
The “Grey’s Anatomy” actress revealed that she was diagnosed with a sizable brain tumor two years ago, which thankfully turned out to be benign.
In 2015, Walsh decided to go see a doctor after experiencing extreme bouts of exhaustion and noticed her right side “dipping.” She was also struggling to complete sentences and had some difficulty exercising.
“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. Then when I was driving, I started swerving into the right lane,” Walsh exclusively told Cosmopolitan. “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.”
Walsh says she followed her “instinct” to see a neurologist, despite her initial suspicion that her symptoms might be related to menopause. That’s when a doctor discovered a tumor the size of a lemon in her brain.
“The words ‘brain tumor’ were never in my zeitgeist. 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,” she revealed. “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.”
Three days later, Walsh underwent surgery to remove the mass and was already on the road to recovery.
The experience, she says, was a big “wakeup call” for the actress, prompting her to focus on healing by taking nine months off and only working on projects that inspired her, like “Girls Trip” and “13 Reasons Why.”
“Those cliche, existential things do happen when you have a brain tumor, like, ‘How do I really want to spend my time?’ I want to be with my friends and family and work on projects that are hugely important to me, and fun, and that make a cultural contribution,” she said. “But my health comes first, and I’ve had to change my lifestyle.”
One would think that playing a TV doctor would make the whole experience somehow less terrifying, but according to Walsh, it was the “total opposite.” The actress, of course, starred on the ABC soap “Grey’s Anatomy” for a handful of seasons, before headlining the spin-off “Private Practice,” which ran for six seasons.
“You’d think that after playing Dr. Addison 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 admitted. “I played a real badass on TV, but when it comes to being a patient it’s such a vulnerable experience.”