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?"
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."
"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 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 succes. "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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