For a long time, Kathy Bates kept her battle with ovarian cancer to herself. But now she’s gone public with her story in the hopes that she can help other women diagnosed with the disease and also find a cure.
“I’m been in total remission for 5½ years now, so that’s great,” the actress told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira and Matt Lauer Friday in New York.
Vieira asked why Bates took so long to go public.
“When I was going through it, I think I just needed to go through and not really deal with anything but what I had in front of me. I even got to the point where I didn’t go with my friends to chemo. I went by myself. I just had to really to do it on my own,” Bates said.
A friend who is with the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance helped convince Bates to go public, and she has since filmed a public service announcement about the disease.
“I’ve decided to share my story and maybe help other women, because early detection is the key in this kind of cancer,” Bates said. “I was so lucky to find it early. Paying attention to your body and paying attention to certain symptoms and being aware — it saved my life.”
The star was in New York to talk about her role in the film “Revolutionary Road,” in which she is reunited with her “Titanic” co-stars Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. Bates plays a nosy real estate agent in the film who sells a house to Winslet and DiCaprio and befriends them.
Winslet’s character is pregnant in the film and is torn between either having the child or aborting it. Bates told Lauer and Vieira that the story line resonated with her because her own mother became pregnant with her late in life after raising two other daughters.
“I realized how much I connected with Kate’s character because of the decision that she has to make whether to keep the child or not,” Bates said. “I was an unplanned pregnancy. My mother was born in 1907. My dad was born in 1900. And my two older sisters were already up and on their way. I remember my mother saying — she was very open about it all her life — she said, ‘I kicked like a mule when I found out I was pregnant.’ ”
Bates was born in 1948 when her mother was 48 years old. Her mother died in 1997, and Bates has told about a fight she witnessed between her parents when her mother was 76 and her dad in his 80s. At one point, her mother shouted, “When is it my turn?”
“I feel that she gave up so much all of her life, and when she said that in that moment, it was a moment that I’ll never forget,” Bates said.
She said Winslet helped her understand her own mother. “She gave up so much for me to do and be what I am now. To see Kate’s performance gave me an insight into that younger woman that I didn’t know,” she said.
“Revolutionary Road,” Bates said, “is a film about choice, a film about which path do we take and how it affects the other people in our lives, especially for women of my mother’s generation who did not have many choices.”
Bates has won numerous awards, including an Oscar for her portrayal of Annie Wilkes in the 1990 film “Misery,” based on the Stephen King novel of the same name. Her first film role was in the 1978 movie “Straight Time,” but her career really took off beginning with “Misery.” She has been in “Fried Green Tomatoes,” “Titanic,” in which she played Molly Brown, “Dolores Claiborne,” “Primary Colors” and “About Schmidt” among many other films. She also has a part as the Secretary of Defense in “The Day the Earth Stood Still.”
But working with DiCaprio and Winslet more than 11 years after “Titanic” was a real treat, Bates said. “I was thrilled. I was very excited to be back with them.”
© 2013 NBCNews.com Reprints