Kathryn Joosten vows to beat lung cancer

One of my favorite character actors, Kathryn Joosten, shared a bit of sad news over the weekend. Her lung cancer is back.

If the name didn’t ring a bell immediately, it’s because Joosten is so talented at inhabiting her characters. She currently plays Mrs. McCluskey on Desperate Housewives, a role for which she has earned two Emmy Awards.

Joosten also starred in The West Wing as one of my favorite characters ever: Mrs. Landingham, the president’s secretary and close friend. When President Bartlett learned that a drunk driver had killed her, viewers everywhere wept along with him.

I had no idea that Joosten was dealing with lung cancer during that time. She was diagnosed in 2001, the year she left The West Wing (although her leaving was not related to her health). A heavy smoker for 40 years, Joosten quit smoking the day of her diagnosis. After surgery to remove the tumor, she was declared cancer free, with no need for chemo or radiation. She’s been a frequent presence at fundraisers for lung cancer research and after five years with no recurrence, she was officially a survivor.

Last week during her annual physical, however, doctors discovered a spot on her lung.

Further tests will help determine the course of treatment, but Joosten told E! Online that she’s ready to fight. “I’m not the type of personality to take this lying down, and I’m not accepting it.”

She also said that Desperate Housewives producers are willing to shoot around her treatment. “They’ve been totally supportive,” she told People. “I said, ‘If you want to put it in the story line, do it! Tell anybody you want, because the public’s going to know.’”

For now, Joosten isn’t missing a beat. She wants to be the Ryan White of lung cancer and do everything she can to reduce the stigma of the disease.

“The first thing everyone says is, ‘Did you smoke?’ Yeah, I smoked. I smoked because Bette Davis said it was very glamorous. I smoked because it was seen everywhere and done everywhere. I got addicted because the tobacco companies add additives to their tobacco to make it more addictive. I’m damned mad at all of them.”

I don’t know about the tobacco companies, but I sure wouldn’t want to piss off Kathryn Joosten.

If you’d like to support this wonderful woman, she has asked that you do two things: contribute what you can to lung cancer research — and stop smoking. Join me in wishing Ms. Joosten the best in her fight.

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