Published Jun 7, 2021
Self-love is a journey, and breast cancer fighter Shannen Doherty, 50, knows it full well; “I embrace me now,” she writes in her latest inspiring Instagram post.
In a world where women live the patriarchal experience of the male gaze informing beauty standards, it’s easy to fall victim to outdated ideas about age and beauty. But breast cancer survivor Doherty doesn’t buy it anymore – and we love that. Reflecting on the pressure women – particularly women in the public eye, such as actresses – feel the need to look a certain way, Doherty writes on social media:
“Watching movies tonight and noticed there were few female characters I could relate to. You know, women without fillers, without Botox, without a facelift. Women who embraced their face and all the experience it showed. I have lived. I love that I’ve lived and that my face reflects my life…”
Shannen has survived a great deal, including cancer. And she’s not shy to talk about it. She continues, “I have lived. I love that I’ve lived and that my face reflects my life. I survived a lot yes cancer but more than that. I embrace me now. Finally. Done with the perception magazines and Hollywood try to make us in to. I want to see women like me. Women like us.”
Doherty’s post prompted many supportive comments, including one from fellow fighter, Selma Blair, who is living with multiple sclerosis (MS). Blair wrote, “Just thinking time I fixed my face. Hahahah. I got the same adult face as you. Hard to sit in my hands. Haha. Love you beautiful.”
Doherty was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015 after finding a lump in her breast which turned out to be cancerous. Doherty had hormone therapy to fight her cancer, but it was ineffective and the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes.
For treatment, Doherty underwent single mastectomy and also had chemotherapy and radiation. After going into remission, she announced in February 2020 that her cancer returned, and this time it had spread to other parts of her body.
Surgery is a common treatment path for many people fighting breast cancer. In an earlier interview, Dr. Ann Partridge, an oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute explains the path to surgery. She says, “So when I talk to a woman who comes to me and she has breast cancer, I evaluate what the standard options for treatment for her are, which typically include cutting out the cancer– which is either a lumpectomy if you can get it all with just a little scooping around of the area that’s abnormal or a mastectomy for some women meaning taking the full breast because sometimes these lesions can be very extensive in the breast.”
For many women who undergo surgery to fight their breast cancer, like Doherty did, it can be a traumatic experience, initially. Other effects of cancer treatment, such as losing your hair while going through chemotherapy, are equally emotionally taxing. In spite of the forces working against you – like the public perception of beauty – it’s possible to, and important to, love yourself through cancer. And those who truly care about you will love you for exactly who you are, and exactly how you look.
Breast cancer survivor and author Laura Morton says that she’s transparent with those she’s dating, and feels confident with how she looks. “When it comes to being intimate with someone,” says Morton, “I do tell them about my cancer because it is a part of who I am.”
Morton is proud of her journey, saying, “It’s not anything that I feel any shame about. It’s nothing that I feel any regrets about. And if anything, I need them to know I don’t have a lot of feeling there. I have a little feeling, but it’s not what it used to be.” Morton credits her confidence for allowing her to be so open with people she’s dating.
“If you are dating somebody who has empathy, who understands that the warrior mode that you had to go into, then it’s all good,” she says. “And if you’re with somebody who has an issue with it, quite frankly, why are you with that person? Yeah, I mean, show them the door.”