Actress Kathy Bates has been an enduring presence in both television and movies for several decades, renowned for her portrayal of formidable characters. Interestingly, her real-life persona is equally as commanding.
However, Kathy Bates faced a significant challenge when she was diagnosed with a chronic condition that necessitated drastic adjustments. In 1970, she ventured to New York with aspirations of becoming an actress. Reflecting on those early years, she acknowledges that she was never considered an ingenue but managed to overcome this obstacle. “I was never an ingenue,” she reveals. “I’ve always been a character actor. Being less conventionally attractive posed a real difficulty when I was younger. It wasn’t just the scarcity of opportunities; it was also confronting how people perceived me,” Bates candidly admits.
Her Broadway career began to soar in 1980 when she portrayed Stella May in “Come Back To The Five And Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean.” Although she missed out on film adaptations of her stage roles on a few occasions, everything changed when she turned 42. Her role as a deranged fan in “Misery” propelled her to almost instant stardom, earning her a Best Actress Academy Award.
Discussing the types of roles she received, she observes, “You’re either young and glamorous, getting the lead, or the opposite end of the spectrum: not attractive enough. So you end up playing the friend, the killer, the lesbian, the doctor, or whatever,” Bates remarks. “But the one who plays the young, pretty character with a happy ending doesn’t possess any power. Conversely, a character can have power, but not femininity.” In addition to her acting pursuits, Bates expanded her repertoire by directing episodes for shows such as “Homicide: Life On The Street,” “NYPD Blue,” “Oz,” and the highly successful TV series “Six Feet Under.”
In her personal life, the actress has faced setbacks concerning her health. She battled cancer twice, first ovarian cancer in 2003 and then breast cancer in 2012. Following her breast cancer surgery, Kathy Bates began speaking openly about her lymphedema diagnosis. She now serves as a spokesperson for the Lymphatic Education & Research Network. Bates reveals that she has shed 80 pounds in recent years and must wear compression sleeves to prevent arm swelling. She ensures she wears them during flights or strenuous activities to avoid exacerbating her condition.
To effectively manage her lymphedema, Bates emphasizes the importance of slowing down. She explains, “By ceasing to rush, relaxing my shoulders, straightening my spine, breathing deeply, and focusing on each small moment while completing a task, I have gained more confidence in living with LE. The pandemic forced me to adopt a slower pace.”
She encourages others with the condition not to allow it to hinder their lives. “Wearing a compression garment in public, particularly when people lack awareness about LE, can sometimes be more painful than the disease itself. However, secluding oneself at home and leading a sedentary existence will only worsen the situation for both your body and mind.” Bates underscores the significance of not allowing the condition to define one’s identity—a philosophy she wholeheartedly embraces.
Furthermore, Kathy Bates advocates for increased research into lymphedema and urges the allocation of funding toward raising awareness about the condition.
Undeterred by her diagnosis, Kathy Bates continues to pursue roles that bring her joy and engage in the work she desires. She has not only learned to live with her condition but also discovered how to thrive despite it.
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