Kate Walsh reveals secret brain tumor diagnosis

Kate Walsh was diagnosed with and had surgery to remove a "sizable brain tumor," the actress reveals in a new interview with Cosmopolitan.

“The words "brain tumor" were never in my zeitgeist,” the Grey’s Anatomy alum explains. “I went in for the MRI, and you know it’s serious when they don’t even wait, they’re like 'Hey, the radiologist wants to see you.' And she starts to say, 'Well, it looks like you have a very sizable brain tumor' — and I just left my body.”

After wrapping starring in and executive producing NBC’s Bad Judge in January 2015, Walsh recalls feeling exhausted and attributed the symptoms to menopause. “The exhaustion got to the point where I could drink five cups of coffee and still not feel awake or clear,” Walsh tells the magazine. “And then around April, I started having more cognitive difficulties. It felt like aphasia, but it wasn’t just not being able to find words; I would lose my train of thought, I wasn’t able to finish sentences, and that was when I got really alarmed."

Walsh recalls swerving when she drove, having difficulty speaking and her pilates instructor informing her that her "right side was dipping."

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BEVERLY HILLS, CA - SEPTEMBER 16: Kate Walsh attends the 6th Annual Women Making History Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on September 16, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - SEPTEMBER 15: Actress Kate Walsh attends Variety and Women In Film's 2017 pre-Emmy celebration at Gracias Madre on September 15, 2017 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 13: Actress Kate Walsh attends the premiere of 'Girls Trip' at Regal LA Live Stadium 14 on July 13, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 04: Kate Walsh attends the 2017 Drama Desk Awards at Town Hall on June 4, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Walter McBride/WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JUNE 02: Kate Walsh attends Netflix's '13 Reasons Why' FYC event at Netflix FYSee Space on June 02, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by JB Lacroix/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 02: Kate Walsh attends the Planned Parenthood 100th Anniversary Gala at Pier 36 on May 2, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew Toth/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 24: Actress Kate Walsh attends the SAG-AFTRA Foundation Conversations: 'Thirteen Reasons Why' screening and panel discussion on April 24, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by J. Kempin/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 24: Kate Walsh leaves AOL Build at BUILD Studio on April 24, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by James Devaney/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 24: Kate Walsh attends the Build Series to discuss the Netflix show '13 Reasons Why' at Build Studio on April 24, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Daniel Zuchnik/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 21: Actress Kate Walsh at Variety Power Women Lucheon on April 21, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Raymond Hall/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 21: Kate Walsh attends Variety's Power of Women: New York at Cipriani Midtown on April 21, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 19: Actress Kate Walsh enters a Midtown Manhattan hotel on April 19, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Ray Tamarra/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 03: Actress Kate Walsh is seen on April 3, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by XPX/Star Max/GC Images)
WATCH WHAT HAPPENS LIVE -- Pictured (l-r): Laura Dern and Kate Walsh -- (Photo by: Charles Sykes/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 27: Kate Walsh attends the Roundabout Theatre Company's 2017 Spring Gala 'Act ii: Setting the Stage for Roundabout's Future' at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel on February 27, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Walter McBride/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 22: Kate Walsh poses at the opening night after party for the new play 'If I Forget' at Planet Hollywood Times Square on February 22, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic)
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Trusting her instincts there was a deeper issue, Walsh went to see a neurologist in order to assess what was occurring with her body. “I got an MRI, and thank God I did, because it turned out I had a very sizable brain tumor in my left frontal lobe. And three days later, I was in surgery having it removed,” she says.

Read more: Maria Menounos Reveals Lingering Physical Effects of Brain Tumor Surgery

Going through the details of her diagnosis, Walsh explains, “It was over five cm, like a small lemon in my head, causing quite a bit of damage: there was a lot of swelling, and I had started getting shooting pains in my head.” Further adding, “The whole situation was so overwhelming, and I was just so relieved to know there was something wrong, that it wasn’t just my imagination and that my instincts were correct."

Despite playing a doctor on television, Walsh recalls feeling terrified the day of surgery.

“You’d think that after playing Dr. Addison [Montgomery on Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice] for the better part of a decade, where I spent more time on a hospital set than at my house, that I would feel somehow more comfortable, but I was such a little scaredy-cat. In the hospital, I felt like I might as well be six years old,” Walsh said.

After having the removal surgery three days later, Walsh focused her energy on recovery, forcing herself to take time off of work and abide by any and all instructions given by the doctors. After a nine-month hiatus, Walsh returned to work on various projects including Girls Trip and 13 Reasons Why.

Although she’s a self-proclaimed workaholic, the health scare made Walsh reassess what’s important and how she truly wants to spend her time.

“In my business, it’s not unusual to be working 17-hour days, so it can be really challenging, but now I know I absolutely need seven or eight hours of sleep. As basic as that sounds, it was a huge part of my recovery,” explains Walsh.

Read more: Maria Menounos Leaves 'E! News' Amid Battle With Brain Tumor

Speaking of her health scare for the first time on television, Walsh told NBC's Today show on Monday that she has a different perspective on life after her recovery. “ I want to spend more time with my family and friends. I want to work on projects that I just love, with people that I love. I want to travel, be of service, just do all of the kinds of things that you hear but for real, “ said Walsh.

Despite the diagnosis occurring in 2015, Walsh feels that now was the right time to publicly address it, for her experience could be of service to those unaware of the importance of check-ups.

“I knew that when I wanted to talk about it, I wanted to be of service in a way. It was a great opportunity to partner with Cigna. It was a perfect opportunity to really emphasize the importance of advocating for your own health. Particularly women, this is a tumor that is twice as common in women as men,” explained Walsh.

Alongside other TV doctors such as former Grey's co-star Patrick Dempsey, Walsh has joined forces with Cigna to encourage everyone to get annual checkups. 

“People in our culture are afraid of medicine and wait until they’re sick, but (it's) the idea of preventive medicine as opposed to just being reactive as the way we go to the gym,” said Walsh. 

Read more: Jim Gaffigan's Wife Jeannie Has Brain Tumor Surgery

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