Two weeks ago, Shannen Doherty revealed photos of herself with a shaved head, a symbolic announcement that she had begun chemotherapy for her breast cancer. Originally diagnosed in February 2015, she says now that the cancer spread further than she and her doctors had hoped—out of her breasts and into the lymph nodes.
In an interview with Entertainment Tonight, Doherty explained that she needed to have a full mastectomy in order to remove as much of the affected area as possible. She underwent this procedure in May 2016. As of now, she has completed three out of eight rounds of chemotherapy, after which she will likely undergo radiation treatment.
Losing her hair, she admitted, was traumatic.
“After my second treatment, my hair was really matted, like in dreadlocks. And I went to try and brush it out, and it just fell out,” she recounted. “I just remember holding onto huge clumps of my hair in my hands, and just running to my mom crying, like, ‘My hair, my hair, my hair, my hair.’”
Ultimately, she took matters into her own hands and shaved her head, documenting the process via Instagram.
It has been an adjustment, she said: the vomiting brought on by chemotherapy, the acute weight loss, and the self-consciousness over her appearance. The first time she was fitted for a bra post-mastectomy, she left the dressing room in tears. But the loss of a breast and her hair is not what troubles Doherty most — it’s the uncertainty of her future. Via ET:
“The unknown is always the scariest part... Is the chemo going to work? Is the radiation going to work? You know, am I going to have to go through this again, or am I going to get secondary cancer? Everything else is manageable. Pain is manageable, you know living without a breast is manageable, it’s the worry of your future and how your future is going to affect the people you love.”
But what helps, Doherty explained, is sharing an experience she knows will resonate with thousands of other women.
“I wanted to put it out there the way it felt the best for me to put it out there,” she said. “And also, if I could help one person, then it makes me go, ‘Oh, ok.’ It’s easier to live with having cancer if I know I’m helping at least one person.”