Kathy Bates Celebrated 73rd Birthday after Surviving Cancer Twice – inside Her Battle for Life

"American Horror Story" actress Kathy Bates has successfully fought cancer twice and battled post-cancer lymphedema. Here is her inspiring story.

Fighting cancer is no easy feat. Fighting it twice is even less so. Actress Kathy Bates, who recently celebrated her 73rd birthday, has done this, and even more. She has achieved so much and done incredibly well for herself.

In 2003, at the age of 55, the actress was diagnosed with stage 1 ovarian cancer. As one would imagine, the shock and fear of the unknown gripped Bates as she proceeded into uncharted territory, hoping for the best.

Kathy Bates attends the 13th Annual CNN Heroes at the American Museum of Natural History on December 08, 2019. | Photo: Getty Images

Kathy Bates attends the 13th Annual CNN Heroes at the American Museum of Natural History on December 08, 2019. | Photo: Getty Images

OVARIAN CANCER

Following her cancer diagnosis, Bates had surgery immediately, after which nine months of chemotherapy followed to treat the illness. While going through all of this, the "American Horror Story" actress did not reveal her ordeal to the public. She shared:

"I didn't tell anybody. I continued going to work right after the operation [...] I didn't want anyone to know, but it really took a lot out of me."

She revealed that her agent warned her against sharing her diagnosis with the public due to the stigma against it in Hollywood. Besides her agent, her gynecologist, whose husband worked in showbiz, also reportedly advised her to keep the information to herself. 

Kathy Bates attends The 24 Hour Plays Broadway Gala at Laura Pels Theatre at the Harold & Miriam Steinberg Center for on November 18, 2019. | Photo: Getty Images

Kathy Bates attends The 24 Hour Plays Broadway Gala at Laura Pels Theatre at the Harold & Miriam Steinberg Center for on November 18, 2019. | Photo: Getty Images

KEEPING A SECRET

Bates had to be very careful, so much so that she returned to work right after her operation, appearing in "Little Black Book" with Brittany Murphy.

Although her agents tried to prevent Bates from becoming the poster child for ovarian cancer in Hollywood, the actress was exhausted and tired of keeping this heavy secret.

Despite being cancer-free, she had to deal with her biggest challenge yet: lymphedema.

BREAST CANCER

This feeling of exhaustion was further solidified when she reportedly saw Melissa Etheridge on stage flaunting her bald head while performing. Bates knew that she wanted to be that free and that proud of her journey.

About nine years after she first battled cancer, Bates was shocked when she felt the all-too-familiar extreme exhaustion and, upon an MRI scan, received a breast cancer diagnosis. 

Without any hesitation, the Memphis-born actress swiftly opted for a double mastectomy. Knowing that the illness runs in her family, she could not take the risk. Her aunt had died from it, her mother had it, and so did her niece. 

EXPERIENCE WITH CANCER

"My mother had had a radical mastectomy -- they took everything -- and her arm swelled terribly," the actress shared. "She was always a very smart dresser and wore very nice clothes, and after the surgery, she couldn't fit into them anymore."

During the time she was battling the resurrected illness, Bates seemingly disappeared from social media. She finally came out two months after her surgery on Twitter to share what had been happening.

Unafraid and unapologetic about her inspiring story, Bates shared her cancer diagnosis with her fans and followers, as well as the details of her double mastectomy.

BATES' ADVOCACY

The 73-year-old, who is now a proud ovarian cancer advocate, also revealed that although she conquered cancer with her double mastectomy, the journey after that was still long and painful.

In 2018, Bates joined other Hollywood stars, including Jennifer Garner, Reese Witherspoon, and Matthew McConaughey, during a fundraising event, Stand Up to Cancer.

Many people, both famous and not, have stood up to cancer in many ways across the globe. Most recently, a New Zealand couple raised a hefty amount of money after the woman's mother passed away from ovarian cancer.

LYMPHEDEMA

Despite being cancer-free, she had to deal with her biggest challenge yet: lymphedema, a disease that very commonly springs up after the removal of lymph nodes during cancer treatment.

Upon discovering that her lymph nodes were taken out during surgery, Bates left the examination room and headed outside. She was angry and sad, thinking that her career was on the brink of failing.

The condition, which led to swelling of her arms and legs, caused so much pain for the actress. With the right doctors, she was able to battle that out as well, revealing that weight loss greatly helped with the post-cancer condition.

A SURVIVOR

Born on June 28, 1948, Bates is an inspiring and strong cancer survivor who is not afraid to tell her story. She became the national spokesman for the Lymphatic Education and Research Network.

According to the star, around ten million people in America have the incurable disease. Still, with all she has been through, she is blessed to have a voice and spread awareness about the different illnesses.

Bates' acting credits include "The Love Boat," "Come Back to the Five And Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean," Night Mother," "All My Children," and "Misery."

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