Kathy Bates’s Own Doctor Thought Revealing Her Cancer Diagnoses Might Hurt Her Chances in Hollywood

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Bates. Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Kathy Bates has beat cancer twice and, with each diagnosis, Bates reveals she’s sadly had to contemplate whether going public with the news might hurt her career. Last year, Bates talked about her manager warning her not to disclose her 2003 ovarian cancer diagnosis so she wouldn’t be pigeonholed as the “poster child for ovarian cancer.” She now tells WebMD that it wasn’t just her professional team who had concerns — even her doctor thought the diagnosis might cost the Oscar winner work. “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 when Bates was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer in 2012, she felt it was time to take the risk and had been inspired by Melissa Etheridge’s breast cancer advocacy to speak up about her own fight, particularly as she continues to suffer from lymphedema, a condition resulting from her double mastectomy. Bates also says that while she’s made the choice not to have breast-reconstruction surgery or wear prostheses in her personal life, she often still has to wear them for roles. “I’ve joined the ranks of women who are going flat, as they say. I don’t have breasts — so why do I have to pretend like I do? That stuff isn’t important,” she says. “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.”

Kathy Bates Was Told Not to Go Public With Cancer Diagnosis