Shannen Doherty is offering some reflections on her long cancer journey in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The actor, who has stage IV breast cancer, posted a couple of candid photos documenting her battle with the illness to Instagram, where she also shared a couple of the lessons she’s learned about getting through difficult times.
“For breast cancer awareness month, I’d like to share more of my own personal journey from my first diagnosis to my second,” wrote Doherty, who was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, went into remission in 2017, and announced her cancer had returned in 2020. “Is it all pretty? NO but it’s truthful and my hope in sharing is that we all become more educated, more familiar with what cancer looks like.”
The first photo is a selfie taken from bed and captures a couple of the side effects Doherty experienced during her first round of treatment in 2015: nosebleeds and exhaustion. “I had a mastectomy and did chemo and radiation,” Doherty said. “I had many nose bleeds from the chemo. Not sure if any of you experienced this. I also was beyond tired.”
Both fatigue and bleeding (from areas like your nose or gums) are among the many potential side effects of chemotherapy, as SELF has reported. People undergoing chemo are often stressed, experiencing tiring physical side effects (like nausea or vomiting), and not getting enough sleep. They may also develop anemia, a condition that can cause fatigue, because the chemo can kill blood-forming cells in bone marrow. Excessive bleeding and bruising can also occur because chemo decreases the number of platelets in the body, which are cells that help your blood clot.
In the second photo Doherty is wearing a Cookie Monster pajama set and eye mask that a friend gifted her. In the caption, Doherty talks about the importance of finding cheer and humor during even the most difficult times. “I cheered myself up by putting on funny pajamas that my friend Kristy gave me. Did they actually cheer me up? Yes!! Lol,” Doherty wrote. “I looked ridiculous and in that ridiculousness, I was able to laugh at myself. Finding humor helped get me thru what seemed impossible.” She added, “I hope we all find humor in the impossible.”
Doherty said that in sharing the photos, she hopes to inspire people to keep up with doctor appointments and empower them to face their fears. “I hope I encourage people to get mammograms, to get regular checkups, to cut thru the fear and face whatever might be in front of you,” she wrote.
Doherty revealed in February 2020 that her cancer had recurred and progressed to stage IV, after it had been in remission since 2017. In stage IV or metastatic breast cancer, the cancer has spread beyond the breast tissue and nearby lymph nodes to more distant parts of the body—most often the lungs, liver, or bones, according to the American Cancer Society, and sometimes other organs.
In September, Shannen Doherty opened up about the reality of living with stage IV cancer, as SELF reported. “My husband [photographer Kurt Iswarienko] says that you would never know that I have cancer,” Doherty said. “I never really complain. I don’t really talk about it. It’s part of life at this point.” She said she feels a “responsibility” to “talk about cancer and perhaps educate people more and let people know that people with stage IV are very much alive and very active.”
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