A DWTS Alum Opens Up About Stage 4 Cancer Diagnosis

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Actress Shannen Doherty has been very forthcoming about her ongoing battle with breast cancer. Her initial diagnosis came in February 2015 and then went into remission in 2017 after she received chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

But in early 2019, the cancer came back and was then metastatic, which is where the cancer cells have spread from the primary site. Doherty revealed the stage 4 diagnosis in early 2020 after keeping it private for almost a year. But due to a court case with her insurance company over some fire damage that her home sustained, she knew the diagnosis would become public and chose to go public with it herself first.

In early 2020, she broke the news on Good Morning America, telling the show, “It’s going to come out in a matter of days or a week that I’m stage four. So my cancer came back. And that’s why I’m here. I don’t think I’ve processed it. It’s a bitter pill to swallow in a lot of ways.”

But how is the former Dancing With the Stars contestant doing a year later? Here is how she has been spending quarantine and who her rocks have been helping her in this journey.


Doherty Leans on Her Best Friend, Actress Sarah Michelle Gellar

Doherty has been spending a lot of quarantine with her best friend, actress Sarah Michelle Gellar. The two of them are part of a series of cooking ads for Kroger and they also hang out, drinking margaritas and practicing their alcohol-related circus tricks.

In October, which is breast cancer awareness month, Gellar interviewed Doherty about her breast cancer battle for Entertainment Tonight. While Doherty’s initial reaction to her stage 4 diagnosis was one of shock, by October 2020 she had moved on to just being able to live with it.

“I love it when people say, ‘we’re praying for you,’ and everything else, but there comes a point when you’re like, ‘I got this. I’m fine. I’m good. There are a lot of people in the world who could use prayers, and I’m feeling great. I have an amazing medical team behind me and … I have a few OK friends and stuff,” Doherty told Gellar with a grin. “I’m doing OK. I’m doing better than OK. I’m doing well. I feel strong and healthy and confident and happy.”

During the interview, Doherty revealed that when she received her diagnosis, she had to inform her closest friends, so she had them over for dinner to tell them what was going on. Gellar said that the whole experience has taught her to “not [be] afraid to ask questions.”

“I think that’s the hardest thing is you never know as the friend, the family, what is your place [and] what are you supposed to do. And to be able to have an open forum where you can ask those questions and understand is the greatest gift. I think it helps us be a better support system for you,” said Gellar.

Doherty said that the support she received from her circle of friends and her family has been “phenomenal.”

“Support from my family, my friends, my loved ones — I mean, my friends are my family — has been phenomenal. You know how supportive you’ve been. Anne Marie [Kortright], Chris [Cortazzo], obviously my mom has been a big support and my husband and let’s not forget about Bowie, who’s been the best dog ever,” said Doherty.

She also said that her outlook has changed somewhat because in life, “everybody’s terminal.”

“I might live a lot longer than somebody who’s perfectly health. You have no idea,” said Doherty.


The Pandemic Has Been Hard on Doherty

While being quarantined hasn’t been that hard for the self-described “shut-in,” she did say she began quarantining a lot sooner than most people because she recognized that getting sick could be worse for her because of her cancer. The pandemic has also affected her ability to receive treatment.

“I also didn’t go in for my blood panel for probably three months, and you’re supposed to go once a month. I resisted, because I didn’t want to be in a doctor’s office. I didn’t want to go to a clinic. I didn’t want to be exposed. There are many cancer patients whose treatments have been canceled altogether — chemo, radiation, just canceled. For that, I think the pandemic has been extremely, extremely difficult,” said Doherty.

But she did say that the quarantine has helped her strengthen her bonds with her loved ones and praised her long-time friendship with Gellar.

“It’s so nice for me to have a female friend that feels no threat, no jealousy. We have never felt that with each other. We’ve done nothing but lift each other up and support each other in our careers and champion one another,” said Doherty and Gellar echoed those sentiments.


Doherty Isn’t Done Fighting Yet

In a separate interview, Doherty told Elle that she hasn’t been recording videos for her loved ones yet because that feels “so final.”

“[Messages for loved ones] feels like you’re signing off, and I’m not signing off. I feel like I’m a very, very healthy human being. It’s hard to wrap up your affairs when you feel like you’re going to live another 10 or 15 years.”

Dancing With the Stars has not yet officially been renewed for season 30, but if ABC does renew it, expect it to premiere in September 2021.

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