Kate Walsh reveals the 'silver lining' of her brain tumor diagnosis

When Kate Walsh was told she had a brain tumor on June 1, 2015, part of her was actually relieved. Having been experiencing severe headaches, exhaustion and constantly losing her train of thought, the former "Grey's Anatomy" actress was simply happy to know what was wrong with her.

"I was so relieved to know there was in fact a diagnosis," she explained to AOL Entertainment during a recent sit-down on the day she revealed her brain tumor diagnosis. "Maybe I’m speaking for myself, but I think for a lot of people part of the issue when you start not feeling well is the fear that it’s in your head. I was so relieved to know there was something wrong, because it’s like, what if it was one of those things where you go to 800 people and nobody knows what it is?"

SEE ALSO: Kate Walsh reveals secret brain tumor diagnosis

Three days later, after doctors put her on anti-seizure medication, Walsh went into surgery to remove the benign tumor. After doctors successfully removed the "sizable" tumor, it was her loved ones who got her through the rest of her battle back to health.

"One of the most beautiful things that came out of it was that I really leaned into my family and friends," she explained. "I've been working since I was 14 and I'm the youngest of five and I'm from a divorced family, so I'm very independent and always take care of things myself, so to be knocked on my butt a little and let people take care of me was a beautiful experience."

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Kate Walsh out and about
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Kate Walsh out and about
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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"I didn't know what the recovery process was going to look like, but it turned out to be very swift and amazing," she remembered.

Now that her experience is known to the public, she feels as though it's time to pay it forward and help other people who are either going through the same thing she is or who she can help avoid such an experience. The "Private Practice" star is partnering with Cigna for a new campaign encouraging the public to go in for routine checkups and take control of their health.

"I really wanted to have [my recovery] be a private experience," Walsh explained of her decision to wait two years before revealing her diagnosis. "We decided for the reveal to be a meaningful partnership where I could be of service to others. I love the message of preventive health care and encouraging people to get their annual physicals."

The result? A series of tongue-in-cheek commercials alongside some of America's other favorite TV doctors like Patrick Dempsey, Neil Patrick Harris and Donald Faison.

"It felt like going back into a worm hole," Walsh said of the filming experience. "We went back to scrubs and a doctor's coat. I was surreal. When Patrick and I would work together on 'Grey's,' we would just make each other laugh as a way of keeping ourselves sane, so we would joke and sing and be vulgar. He has a sparkle in his eye, and I just love him so much."

 

 

Another way that Walsh has been able to use her emotional experience to help others is to reach out to others who are going through a similar experience. During her process, she had someone she could text and call with questions who had gone through the same surgery 10 years before her, so when she heard that friend Maria Menounos had been diagnosed with a brain tumor last year, Walsh immediately reached out to let her know that she would be there for her.

"We've known each other for a long time," she told us. "I went and talked to her. It was incredible, and she's such a special person. She's such an alpha girl, though, so I told her to give herself time [to recover]. It was helpful in my recovery to have someone to go to, so that was how I wanted to show up for Maria, as well."

Part of Walsh's very private recovery, too, was forcing herself to take the time to fully heal and prepare herself to go back into work. 

"The silver lining of this grey cloud of having this diagnosis was that, when I went back to work, I hit it hard," she said with a laugh. "I waited, I rested and I made sure that I was super ready. I was also super picky. But, to be able to go 'Girls Trip' and 'Felt' and '13 Reasons Why' basically all at the same time was really awesome."

In the summer breakout "Girls Trip," Walsh plays a hilariously out-of-touch -- but well-meaning -- agent to Regina Hall's character, Ryan, who steals almost every scene that she's in. It was working alongside Hall, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith and newcomer Tiffany Haddish -- four black women who were fronting an R-rated comedy -- and then seeing how the film bucked industry expectations and charmed audiences, though, that made it all worth it for Walsh. It's a feeling that she's familiar with, too.

"That was the exciting thing for me about being part of Shondaland and 'Girls Trip,'" she said of the film's success. "When Shonda Rhimes wrote 'Scandal' for Kerry [Washington], people were saying it wouldn’t work because you couldn’t have an African-American female lead. Well, they were wrong. To have four African-American women lead an R-rated comedy and have it make $100 million is so exciting. It’s such a great story, and to be a part of that is just incredible. To have the movie be so good and have so much heart just makes you feel so good."

RELATED: See photos of "Girls Trip" star Regina Hall:

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Regina Hall out and about
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Regina Hall out and about
LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 13: Actress Regina Hall 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)
ATLANTA, GA - JULY 11: Regina Hall attends 'Girls Trip' Atlanta Screening at SCADshow on July 11, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Prince Williams/WireImage)
ATLANTA, GA - JULY 11: Jada Pinkett Smith and Regina Hall at 'Girls Trip' Atlanta special screening at SCADshow on July 11, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Universal Pictures)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 10: Regina Hall is seen at 'Jimmy Kimmel Live' on July 10, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by RB/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - JUNE 30: Actress Regina Hall at 'Girls Trip' New Orleans screening at Theatres at Canal Place on June 30, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - JUNE 30: Regina Hall attends the Premiere of Netflix Original Film 'Naked' At The 2017 Essence Festival at Civic Theatre on June 30, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Erika Goldring/Getty Images for Netflix)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 25: Regina Hall, Tiffany Haddish, Queen Latifah and Jada Pinkett Smith speak onstage at 2017 BET Awards at Microsoft Theater on June 25, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images )
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 25: Regina Hall at the 2017 BET Awards at Staples Center on June 25, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for BET)
MIAMI, FL - JUNE 15: Actress Regina Hall poses for a portrait at the New World Center on Day 1 of the American Black Film Festival on June 15, 2017 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by J. Countess/Getty Images,)
MIAMI, FL - JUNE 14: Regina Hall attends 2017 American Black Film Festival on June 14, 2017 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Thaddaeus McAdams/FilmMagic)
BOSTON, MA - JUNE 07: Actress Regina Hall and Sam Slater attend the Ellie Fund's 5 for Ellie Spring Fashion Show at the Fairmont Copley Plaza on June 7, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. Proceeds from the 5 for Ellie benefit the Ellie Funds mission to provide essential support services for breast cancer patients and families across Massachusetts and was attended by more than 350 guests. (Photo by Paul Marotta/Getty Images for Ellie Fund & Slater Foundation)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - MARCH 16: Actress Regina Hall attends a screening and discussion of FOX's 'Shots Fired' at Pacific Design Center on March 16, 2017 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Allen Berezovsky/WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 17: Actress Regina Hall poses for a portrait for BET's 2017 American Black Film Festival Honors Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 17, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by J. Countess/WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 17: Actress Regina Hall attends the BET's 2017 American Black Film Festival Honors Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 17, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 17: Honoree Issa Rae (L) and host Regina Hall pose with the Rising Star Award during BET Presents the American Black Film Festival Honors on February 17, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for BET)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 17: Host Regina Hall speaks onstage during BET Presents the American Black Film Festival Honors on February 17, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
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