Shannen Doherty’s cancer is in remission, but there was a time she didn’t think she would make it this far.
In an interview with Health, the 47-year-old actress opened up about her battle with breast cancer. After being diagnosed in 2015, Doherty tried treating the cancer with hormone therapy. However, the cancer moved to her lymph nodes.
So in 2016, Doherty underwent a single mastectomy, followed by chemotherapy, radiation, and reconstructive surgery.
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Thank you @shanepaish for the beautiful makeup yesterday and thank you to the sun that was perfectly shining on the white trailer in front of me which acted as the most brilliant bounce card and perfect lighting. Currently trying to position myself only in front of large white walls from now on. #su2c
Along the way, Doherty shared her cancer fight on social media, hoping that her openness would help others going through the same thing.
Doherty said her lowest point came when she was taking a shower, and her hair started coming out in clumps — that was the moment when things became real. Doherty’s mom was there to help and lifted her daughter’s mood as they shaved her head.
But when Doherty was about to give up, it was her husband, Kurt Iswarienko, who helped her pull through.
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Driving home from radiation with my love @kurtiswarienko Today, we were in an elevator and I was asked how I was feeling. I responded by saying that I had just gotten a radiation treatment so therefore very tired. The random girl on the elevator with us physically lunged away as far as she could. She then proceeded to look horrified for the next 3 floors. Just a heads up…. 1. You can't catch it 2. The radiation won't leak out of me and go into you. Hope that helps. #cancertruths from the #cancerslayer
She told Health that it happened while she was “deathly ill” from the chemotherapy:
“They were worried about my organs shutting down because I couldn’t keep anything in. One time, I couldn’t lift my head, I couldn’t suck on an ice cube, I was done. And Kurt was crying, saying, ‘Please don’t leave me.'”
Her husband’s plea inspired her to keep going. Doherty added:
“I looked at him and thought, ‘I can’t do this to him.’ So I dug deep, gathered everything up, and charged forward again. Kurt and I got through one of the worst things a couple can go through, and we came out stronger.”
The experience has been transformative for Doherty. It redefined how she thinks about appearance and made her less concerned with the “physical shell” and more interested in strength, grace, and compassion.
It has also changed the way she looks at having a family. Before cancer, Doherty had been open about wanting children. Now, she can’t get pregnant and can’t take the risk of taking estrogen pills because they could cause her cancer to return.
There are other options, but Doherty told Health that she worries about how long she’ll be around for her children:
“We’re having conversations about an egg donor, maybe adoption. But there’s fear there. Am I going to last five years? Ten years? I certainly wouldn’t want my 10-year-old burying a mother. I’ve always wanted a kid. But maybe I’m supposed to mother in a different way.”
For now, she’s looking forward to getting back to work and enjoying the little things in life. And as strange as it might sound, she’s grateful for the ways that cancer made her a better person. As she told Health:
“As brutal as it was, cancer was a gift. It opened me up, it taught me about myself, and it changed me as a human being forever.”