Shannen Doherty Opens Up About Beating Cancer: You Have to ‘Keep Plowing Through’

Shannen Doherty
Shannen Doherty attends Hollywood Unites for the 5th Biennial Stand Up To Cancer in 2016. Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Most mornings Shannen Doherty has to talk herself off the proverbial ledge. In the 30 months since she first received her breast cancer diagnosis, every twinge of pain sends her reeling. “You find yourself going, ‘Oh, I have that pain too. Does that mean I’m getting bone cancer?’” she admitted to Us Weekly at a September 9 benefit for the Farrah Fawcett Foundation. “There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t wake up going, ‘Oh, is this normal?’ And then I sort of slap myself and go, ‘OK, you’re being silly.’”

Chasing away such negative thoughts is a key part of recovery, noted the actress: “The thing about cancer is that you have to just keep plowing through because it can really sort of overtake you.”

But Doherty has emerged the victor. In April, two months after she completed eight rounds of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, the 46-year-old actress, who also underwent a single mastectomy, announced she was in remission. Now she’s back to work — filming the TV reboot of her 1988 film Heathers — and eagerly anticipating what she hopes will be
her final reconstructive surgery. “I think anytime you go under the knife you’re nervous,” said the Beverly Hills, 90210 alum, wed to photographer Kurt Iswarienko, but she’s excited for the results. After a week of “not feeling so great,” she said, “putting on a bathing suit will be my celebration — knowing everything is evened out.”

Such levity was hard to find immediately after her 2015 diagnosis. “I felt like a number,” she told Us. “I felt like the protocol wasn’t right for me.” Then she connected with Dr. Lawrence Piro. Together, Doherty and the L.A. oncologist set a course of treatment: a May 2016 mastectomy followed by chemo and radiation. “It’s like a marriage,” she said of their relationship. “You have to find someone you click with.”

You also need a deeply devoted spouse. Iswarienko held held Doherty’s hand through chemo days and accompanied her on visits with the radiation machine she dubbed Maggie. And anytime work took him away, he left Doherty’s mother Rosa as proxy. “My mom and him do a tag team,” she explained. (Even while away he managed to comfort, texting she looked “hot” after shaving her head in July 2016.) Said Doherty, “I couldn’t ask for someone better.”

Her rock-solid romance (she told Entertainment Tonight their union is “a thousand times stronger” now) is just one reason Doherty’s able to find the silver lining. “It’s just always important to believe there is a rainbow on the other side,” she told Extra, “and that there are beautiful things that come out of the worst situations.”

For more of Shannen’s interview, pick up the new issue of Us Weekly!

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