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Q&A with Kathy Bates

The veteran actress, who is in three movies and two TV series this year, talks about what she learned from surviving ovarian cancer.
By Linda Formichelli
WebMD Magazine - Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

A popular actress on stage and screen, Kathy Bates has played everything from an unhappy wife (Fried Green Tomatoes) to a literary fan gone psychopathic (Misery), a free spirit mother of an adult son (About Schmidt), a wisecracking political advisor (Primary Colors), and Gertrude Stein (Midnight in Paris). She has appeared in numerous TV shows and series, including Six Feet Under, The Late Shift, and Annie. She sat down with WebMD the Magazine to talk about her experience with ovarian cancer, her health habits, her favorite healthy snack, and just what piece of advice she'd like to give other women.

In your video interview for the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, you said that going through the experience of fighting ovarian cancer was the best thing that ever happened to you. Why is that?

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General Information About Ovarian Epithelial Cancer

Incidence and Mortality Estimated new cases and deaths from ovarian cancer in the United States in 2013:[1] New cases: 22,240. Deaths: 14,030. Several malignancies arise from the ovary. Epithelial carcinoma of the ovary is one of the most common gynecologic malignancies and the fifth most frequent cause of cancer death in women, with 50% of all cases occurring in women older than 65 years.[2] Approximately 5% to 10% of ovarian cancers are familial, and three distinct hereditary...

Read the General Information About Ovarian Epithelial Cancer article > >

It helped me see that I'm lucky, and I feel grateful to have the opportunity to continue working, to have relationships with friends, to travel, to have a good relationship with my family. All the things that we begin to take for granted in our daily lives.

You advocate listening to your body and heading to the doctor if anything strikes you as wrong. Before the cancer, did you tend to ignore what your own body was telling you?

You get to the point where you don't want to go to the doctor. You tell yourself you don't want any bad news. [In 2003] I was in Europe and a friend said, "You know, you don't look well." I was very flushed and very tired and I kept thinking it was the heat. Finally I decided I was not feeling right and I went back home and saw the gynecologist.

How have your health habits changed since?

I've tried to eat better. I try to get more exercise. It's not always easy; it's a constant battle, but I do the best I can.

How is your health now?

My health is very good. I've got a lot of energy. I feel really positive and happy to be at work.

You're an Oscar and Golden Globe winner, you're in three movies this year, and you're in two TV series -- The Office and Harry's Law -- plus you do work for the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance. How do you manage to do all that and still find time to exercise?

Thankfully Harry's Law has a huge set and I'm on my feet walking all day. Of course, in the courtroom we're always on our feet making closing arguments and cross-examinations. I find it to be a really good workout.

This year you're in the movie A Little Bit of Heaven, about a woman who discovers she has cancer. How did this storyline resonate with you since you've had the disease yourself?

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