Inside Shannen Doherty's Cancer Struggle

Since her diagnosis went public in August 2015, actress Shannen Doherty has made headlines for her often painful and complicated battle with breast cancer. Although she's now on the path to recovery, her journey to get there was filled with the kind of twists and turns that will bring a tear to your eye. Here's a closer look at the struggles the former Beverly Hills, 90210 star has faced over the last few years.

Her diagnosis was revealed through a lawsuit

News that Doherty was battling breast cancer leaked in August 2015 after she filed a lawsuit against her former business manager. According to documents obtained by TMZ, Doherty alleged that the firm Tanner, Mainstain, Glynn & Johnson failed to pay an invoice for her medical insurance premiums in 2014, causing the insurance to be canceled until the following year. The suit claims Doherty went to the doctor in March 2015, when she had insurance again, and discovered she had "invasive breast cancer metastatic to at least one lymph node," according to TMZ. Doherty was also told the cancer had spread sometime during 2014 and would have been detected and treated if she had been insured and going to the doctor for checkups.

The lawsuit prompted Doherty to release an official statement on the matter to People magazine in August 2015. "Yes, I have breast cancer, and I am currently undergoing treatment," she said. "I am continuing to eat right, exercise and stay very positive about my life. I am thankful to my family, friends and doctors for their support and, of course, my fans who have stood by me."

Doherty's husband, Kurt Iswarienko, reached a settlement in the suit in June 2017.

She broke down on Dr. Oz

In February 2016, Doherty gave a tearful interview on The Doctor Oz Show about her then year-long battle with the disease. Doherty admitted that after she was diagnosed with breast cancer, her worries immediately turned to her family. "You worry most about the people that you love and making sure that they are going to be okay," she told Dr. Mehmet Oz (via Entertainment Tonight). "For me, that was the hardest part."

At the time, Doherty said she had yet to undergo surgery to treat the disease and was still deciding between a lumpectomy and mastectomy. "At the end of the day, it will be up to my doctor and it could change at the last minute," she said. "I'm actually going to a center, just to sort of get their general opinion and then I head back to L.A. and instantly go in with my doctors. You know, I'm like 'You guys make the final decision. What would you do if it was your wife? What would you do if it was your daughter?"

"Ultimately, they're just breasts right?" she added, when asked if she was prepared to have a mastectomy. "I mean, I love them, they're mine, they're beautiful, but in the grand scheme of things, I would rather be alive and I would rather grow old with my husband." Doherty married celebrity photographer Kurt Iswarienko in 2011.

She shaved her head

In July 2016, a 45-year-old Doherty chronicled the decision to shave her head. The process was revealed in six photos posted to her Instagram account. "After my second treatment, my hair was really matted, like in dreadlocks," Doherty told Entertainment Tonight a few days after posting the images. "And I went to try and brush it out, and it just fell out. 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.'"

She continued: "It was just shedding and it was driving me crazy. It was just clumps, and I was like, 'Just grab the kitchen scissors.' And my mom's like, 'Wait, wait, wait.' I'm just, like, 'Grab it.' She went and grabbed the kitchen scissors, and put it in a ponytail and she just chopped it off. And it was this cute little bob, but it wasn't enough, you know, it was falling out."

"We did stages," said Doherty, who wore a scarf over her head for the interview with Entertainment Tonight. "We did a pixie. And then we did a mohawk, which was my favorite look. And then finally, we had to get the shaver thing and just buzz it off."

Her cancer spread

In that same interview with Entertainment Tonight, Doherty revealed that her cancer had spread. "I had breast cancer that spread to the lymph nodes, and from one of my surgeries we discovered that some of the cancer cells might have actually gone out of the lymph nodes," said Doherty, confirming she had a single mastectomy in May 2016. "So for that reason, we are doing chemo, and then after chemo, I'll do radiation."

"The unknown is always the scariest part," she said. "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 that you love."

Of her mastectomy, she said: "[My doctor] didn't want me to wake up with absolutely nothing. It was very important to him that I didn't have that experience, and so, he put an expander in, so I have a tiny something there. It's cute and sometimes we fill it up and make it bigger, and sometimes we reduce it."

She threw up 'every single second' post-chemo

Speaking to Entertainment Tonight, Doherty detailed the painful experience she had after undergoing chemotherapy. "I am in bed and it is a rush to the bathroom," she recalled. "It's, you know, you're throwing up every single second. After my first treatment I lost 10 pounds, instantly. You're throwing up and the last thing you want to do is be in a car. You don't want to be moved, you can't eat. But my husband has to, you know, pick me up. He puts me in the car, he buckles me in, and he drives me to my oncologist and they hook me up to an IV and I get hydrated. ...There's nothing going in my body, it's all going out."

Getting fitted for a new bra was 'traumatic'

Doherty said one of the most difficult parts of battling breast cancer was having to adjust to the changes to her body. Among the many adaptations: getting fitted for a new bra size. "It was traumatic and horrible," she told Entertainment Tonight, "and I didn't think anything of it at the time, then my mom went with me and I broke down crying in the dressing room and ran out. And then [I] sat in the car crying."

It completely changed her outlook on life

Naturally, the toll of battling breast cancer has done a number on Doherty's outlook on life. "It's hard," she told Entertainment Tonight, through tears. "I started thinking that I wasn't going to live."

"I don't look past today," she said. "I want to believe that if I fight, I'm going to be okay."

Fortunately, she received some positive news in the years since ...

Her cancer is in remission

On April 29, 2017, Doherty revealed exciting news on Instagram that her cancer is in remission. "Moments. They happen. Today was and is a moment. What does remission mean? I heard that word and have no idea how to react. Good news? YES. Overwhelming. YES. Now more waiting," she wrote.

While Doherty is remaining cautiously optimistic about the news, she is also well aware that the struggle is far from over. "As every single one of my fellow cancer family knows, the next five years is crucial. Reoccurrences happen all the time. Many of you have shared that very story with me," she wrote.

"So with a heart that is certainly lighter, I wait," she continued. "In the meantime, decisions. Reconstruction which is several surgeries. Decision on taking a pill for the next five years that comes with its own set of problems and side effects. I am blessed, I know that. But for now.... remission. I'm going to just breathe. #cancerslayer."

She wants to inspire other women battling cancer

If there's one positive element to her cancer battle, Doherty told Entertainment Tonight, it's that she hopes it inspires and encourages other women who are battling the disease. "People don't realize that cancer—yes, it ages you—but also, you can balloon up from the various meds," she said. "There are so many different reactions you have and so I just—I didn't want someone to take a picture of me coming out of the grocery store and be like, 'Oh God, look at her.'

"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 okay.' It's easier to live with having cancer if I know I'm helping at least one person."