I have long admired Kathy Bates. That's not exactly tough to do. She's always made strong, interesting choices. Just look at her star-making turn in the Broadway production of Frankie and Johnny, or her creepy-as-heck Oscar-winning role in the Stephen King adaptation Misery. The woman knows how to pick 'em and that's saying something.
She also always seemed to me to be the sort of broad I'd enjoy hanging out with. Admittedly, I didn't know a lot about her personal life. But please, like that's ever stopped any one of us from daydreaming about hanging out with a celebrity. My belief was only reinforced when I read an interview with her about her experiences fighting cancer.
How we relate to stories of cancer survival depends on our own relationship to the illness. If you or a loved one have fought cancer, obviously you bring to your reading of any such story a different perspective than those who have only a passing understanding of its terrors. I fall in the party of those whose lives have been impacted by cancer.
For me, this means approaching the cancer narratives of celebrities cautiously. Much in the way as is common with new celebrity moms normalizing rapid weight loss post-giving birth, I think the common trope of "I overcame this, I am a superhero" puts too much pressure on those who don't live their lives in the spotlight. That's why Kathy's comments about her cancer really resonated with me -- they felt simple, specific, and brutally truthful:
Breast cancer runs like a river through my family. [...] Even if you test negative [for genetic mutations that predispose you to cancer] -- like I did -- you can't assume you're OK. I'm sorry I had to have my breasts removed. There are lots of things I wish were different, but I have wonderful friends I rely on for my happiness. And I've been blessed with a keen mind and many interests.
After a bout of ovarian cancer in 2003, Bates was diagnosed with cancer in her left breast in 2012 and opted to have a double mastectomy. I think her comments about her experience prove it isn't a black and white issue. She speaks simply, with regret and sadness. But above that, she speaks with the strength of a woman who made a difficult choice and has done what is the most important thing for all survivors to do -- she's moved on.
What do you think of Kathy's comments?
Image via Chris Pizzello/Corbis