While most people know Kathy Bates for her humorous or award-winning roles, many people don’t know that she is a two-time cancer survivor. A couple of years ago, she developed lymphedema in both of her arms after a double mastectomy. After going through nine rounds of chemotherapy and beating ovarian cancer, she was faced with adapting to life with lymphedema. Now her focus is to offer her support to other cancer survivors.
“Up to 10 million Americans and hundreds of millions worldwide suffer from lymphedema. It will occur in up to 50% of breast cancer survivors, and 100% of those with head and neck cancer.” – Lymphatic Network
Lymphedema is caused when your lymph nodes are taken out or damaged, usually when treating someone for cancer. This leads to the blockage of lymph fluid, which causes swelling in the arms, chest or legs. Lymph is the fluid responsible for discarding bacteria and bodily waste from tissues. Although there is no cure for lymphedema, there are ways to help manage it on a regular basis.
After her mastectomy, Kathy had a hard time adjusting to wearing prosthetic breasts and feeling tired and weak all of the time. It wasn’t easy for her to get the energy to get ready in the morning, so Kathy really appreciated the help of her makeup artist and hair dresser on set. The downside to being on set were costume fittings. It was hard to find something that didn’t restrict the flow of lymph under her arm. According to Kathy, the hardest part of all of it was when her TV show, Harry’s Law was cancelled; “The timing could not have been worse. When you have a network canceling your show because your viewers are too old, there’s nothing worse than a double mastectomy to slam the door on your sexual attractiveness. It was a double whammy.”
Luckily for Kathy, her lymphedema is mild, but she still goes to therapy and wears a compression sleeve to keep the swelling down. LympheDivas is a company that sells compression arm sleeves in a variety of colors and patterns to help breast cancer survivors to feel confident again. Instead of wearing medical looking attire, patients can dress fun and fashionable. These garments are made with moisture wicking fibers to keep your arm comfortable and dry all day. The fabric is also infused with aloe vera to keep your skin soft and smooth.
Now, Kathy is a celebrity spokeswoman for Lymphatic Education & Research Network (LE&RN). She kicked off the Face of Lymphedema Challenge at the fifth annual Walk for Lymphedema and Lymphatic Diseases this past September. The cool factor here is that not many celebrities share their experience with the world. Kathy Bates is one of the first Hollywood celebs to be out in the open with her condition.
Her advice to those recently diagnosed with cancer?
“It’s no picnic, but it’s not necessarily a death sentence either. Go through the initial panic, and when that dies down, focus. Listen to your doctors, and ask questions; the more you know, the better. But stay off the Internet at night worrying. Rest instead. Be good to yourself. Use your chemo time to visualize yourself becoming healthy, no matter how silly the fantasy may seem. The rest of the time, try not to dwell on cancer. You are not your cancer. It doesn’t define you. You can decide who you want to be. On the positive side, cancer can be a wake-up call. Take the opportunity to enjoy life and be a kinder person. You’re still at the party, so have a good time until last call.”
Click here to read more about Coping Magazine’s article on Kathy Bates.
Kathy Bates never let cancer or lymphedema stop her. She has inspired tons of people with her story. For more information about lymphedema, Kathy Bates, or other resources, check out the links below. Thanks for reading!
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