It was 2015 when Kate Walsh, star of 13 Reasons Why, first felt symptoms of exhaustion, cognitive difficulties, and not being able to finish sentences. Walsh’s determined efforts uncovered the cause of the symptoms, a “very sizable” brain tumor (2).
At first, Walsh attributed her symptoms to stress, being overworked or menopause. After all, Walsh had been “working insane hours, maybe 80 hours a week, and also working out really hard” (6).
It was during a Pilates session when Walsh’s instructor said, “hey, your right side is dipping” (2). At first, Walsh didn’t “feel off”, then affirms, “but I looked down and could see it” (2).
Recalling a scary driving encounter, Walsh says, “I was driving, I started swerving into the right lane” (2).
Walsh describes her cognitive difficulties saying, “I would lose my train of thought, I wasn’t able to finish sentences, and that was when I got really alarmed” (2).
These were some of the events that prompted Walsh to seek professional assistance and an MRI on her brain.
Kate’s Struggle For An MRI
Focused on finding answers, Walsh visited a neurologist and asked for a brain scan. Despite Walsh’s concerns, her request for an MRI was met with staunch opposition.Walsh says, “when I went to the neurologist, he’s like, why? What do you think you’re going to find? (1). “He was very condescending. He was like, you’re an actress you’re in your 40’s, you’re not working” (1).
The neurologist offered Walsh a prescription for antidepressants, to which Walsh replied: “I’m not saying I’m averse to that or that it isn’t helpful but before I commit to a high dosage of antidepressants I’d just like to get an MRI”(1).
Following initial denials for an MRI, Walsh persevered and followed her instincts. Walsh says, “I had to really advocate, because they don’t just hand out MRI’s so easily, but 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” (2). Three days later Walsh was in surgery having it removed. The tumor was over 5 centimeters, Walsh describes it “like a small lemon in my head, causing quite a bit of damage” (2).
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MRI Brain Scan Results: Meningioma
Kate Walsh was diagnosed with a meningioma (3), a tumor that forms on membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord just inside the skull. Meningiomas are often slow growing and as many as 90% are benign (4).
The growth of benign meningiomas can cause serious problems, and in some cases, can be fatal (4).
A small number of meningiomas are cancerous, which tend to grow quickly. They can also spread to other parts of the brain, and areas such as the lungs (4).
Middle-aged woman are more than twice as likely as men to develop a meningioma. Most meningiomas occur between the ages of 30-70 (4).
Causes and Risk Factors
Exposure to radiation and neurofibromatosis type 2 are two known risk factors of meningiomas. Neurofibromatosis is a genetic disorder of the nervous system which mainly affects the growth and development of nerve cell tissue (5).
Top 6 Signs Of A Brain Tumor
As mentioned symptoms of meningioma are slow growing and are not always detectable. The most common symptoms of a meningioma include (4),
- Blurred vision.
- Weakness in arms or legs.
- Speech problems.
Walsh’s Valuable Message
Worth applauding is the tenacity and resilience Walsh displayed in seeking answers to her symptoms. Walsh, with instinct and will, surged past two common stop signs. First, delving beyond the self-diagnosis of the symptoms being related to stress. Second, vehemently insisting upon receiving an MRI, despite reluctance from the neurologist.
In light of Walsh’s experience, she has some important lessons to share. “I just really encourage women to trust their gut and advocate for themselves…if they don’t get what they need from a doctor, don’t be afraid to switch…you just have to push and trust yourself” (1).
Walsh emphasizes how important it is to have a good relationship with their doctor. A healthy relationship ensures you are treated with compassion and that you are comfortable speaking up or pushing back if something doesn’t feel right.
Another tip from Walsh, “if I’m nervous about an appointment now, I bring a friend with me. You don’t have to go it alone” (6).
If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times, “go see a doctor” (6). This is what Walsh urges you to do. “We should go get a checkup the same way we go to the gym, just preventatively, instead of waiting for something to go wrong” (6).
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