Kate Walsh of Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice fame has opened up about her brain tumor diagnosis.


Walsh was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2015. “I was shocked. It’s not what I expected,” Walsh told CNN of the moment her doctors revealed her MRI results. She was diagnosed with a meningioma, which is a tumor that arises from the lining of the brain and spinal cord. Three days later, Walsh underwent surgery to have the mass removed, after which time the doctors confirmed that the tumor was benign.

When symptoms first arose, in January 2015, Walsh says she just chalked it up to exhaustion. “I could drink five cups of coffee and not wake up,” the actress said, as she was then starring on NBC series Bad Judge. She also describes that her balance was off and she’d often develop terrible headaches. “I would reach for words or thoughts, and I just couldn’t finish them,” she adds.

A big turning point for her was when her pilates instructor notices that her right side was dipping. Exercise is “typically when people will see subtle motor changes, because they’re really comparing both sides of their body,” explains CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

When Walsh finally went to the doctor in June 2015, they said even the right side of her face had begun to droop slightly. They also said she was lucky she hadn’t developed seizures. The tumor was just over 5cm long and was pressing on her frontal lobe.

Walsh played a surgeon for years on Grey’s and Private Practice, and the irony has not escaped her. “How meta,” she laughs. After surgery, Walsh says, “the fog had lifted.” She says she wants to share her story to encourage others to visit the doctor at the first sign that something is wrong. “I was so relieved to know that it was something,” she explains. “Trust your instincts. Trust your body.”

Walsh has teamed up with her Grey’s co-stars and other actors who play doctors on television to encourage people to go in for their annual check-ups. “We are the TV Doctors of America. And we may not know much about medicine, but we know a lot about drama” says an ad starring Walsh, Neil Patrick HarrisPatrick Dempsey, and Donald Faison. “From scandalous romance, to ridiculous plot twists. We also know you can avoid drama by getting an annual check-up. So we’re partnering with Cigna to remind you to go see a real doctor. Go, know, and take control of your health. It could save your life.”

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