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Desperate Housewives’ Kathryn Joosten Opens Up About Her Latest Encounter with Lung Cancer

by Laura Shipp

For over two decades, celebrities have entrusted Coping® to tell the world about their personal experience with cancer. We are proud to present this exclusive interview from our archives and hope that it will inspire and encourage all who read it. This article was originally published in Coping with Cancer magazine, November/December 2009.

Celebrity Cancer Survivor

Kathryn Joosten on the set of Desperate Housewives
(photo courtesy of ABC)

Eight years ago, Kathryn Joosten, who plays spirited neighbor Mrs. McCluskey on ABC’s Desperate Housewives, went head to head with lung cancer. A smoker at the time (she has since quit), Kathryn knew well the dangers of her nicotine habit, so she committed herself to twice-yearly chest X-rays – a well-advised precaution, which ultimately led to early detection of her disease. After surgery to remove her upper right lobe, Kathryn was in the clear. She was cancer-free. But in September of this year, Kathryn received the news that every survivor fears – recurrence. A fate she once hoped she had outmaneuvered by passing the five-year mark.

During a routine checkup, doctors discovered a spot on her left lung. She had surgery in early October to remove the cancerous growth. Coping® magazine recently checked in with Kathryn to see how she is coping with her cancer’s latest assault. Here’s what she had to say.

You underwent surgery just a few days ago. How is your recovery going?
I guess recovery is going at a pace that it should. I have some pain at the surgical sites, but that should improve when the stitches are removed next week.

Celebrity Cancer Survivor

Kathryn Joosten and Orson Bean on the set of Desperate Housewives
(photo courtesy of ABC)

What was your immediate reaction when you heard your cancer was back? Had you thought you had put cancer behind you?
I was totally blown over. I had not expected it, and certainly not in the other lung. That part shook me the most. I sought out a therapist to help me handle the reaction I was having. Keep in mind, all of this happened within one month.

How is this bout with cancer different from the first time around?
The surgical removal the first time was much more extensive, as a rib had to be removed, so my whole chest had to be opened.

How will all this affect your work on Housewives?
Not at all. I missed a few weeks of filming, but we can make that time up.

What do you think needs to be done to raise awareness for lung cancer?
More and more survivors need to come forward, especially any wellknown personalities. We need to get the public to see that this is not something that should be hidden, that there are treatments for it, that it can be treated.

Kathryn regularly speaks out about lung cancer and the stigma that often is attached to the disease. Because the most recognized cause of lung cancer is tobacco use, many people view it as something that survivors have brought on themselves, making it difficult for lung cancer survivors to speak out. One message Kathryn wants people to take away from her story is that there is no shame in talking about lung cancer.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

For more of Kathryn’s story from Coping, click here.

This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, November/December 2009.