The Importance of Friendship Through Cancer
- Actress Shannen Doherty, 52, has been commended for her honesty, strength, and perseverance by her sweet friend Brian Austin Green, one of her fellow cast members of the popular 1990s sitcom “Beverly Hills 90210.”
- Doherty was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015. It went into remission in 2017 but returned as stage 4 cancer in 2019. Her breast cancer has since spread to her brain causing her to undergo surgery to remove a tumor in her brain.
- Metastatic breast cancer also called “stage four” breast cancer means that the cancer has spread, or metastasized, beyond the breasts to other parts of the body. There is technically no cure, but advancements in treatments can dramatically improve outcomes and that is something to be hopeful for.
- Supporting a friend or loved one with cancer can be hard. SurvivorNet suggests offering concrete ways to show the cancer warrior you care, allowing them to talk through their negative emotions with you, cooking them a healthy meal that they’ll enjoy, doing activities with them that will lift their spirits and working to better understand their diagnosis if you’re taking on more of a full-time caregiver role.
Green, who starred in the long-running 90s teen drama with Doherty and rose to fame in his role of David Silver, praised the beloved actress this week as she revealed the launch of her new podcast called “Let’s Be Clear with Shannen Doherty,” which chronicles part of her professional and personal life. His sweet words also come as Doherty told People Magazine she’s “not done with living” as her “greatest memory is yet to come.”
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Doherty’s breast cancer journey began in 2015, but she’s been thriving thanks to her supported loved ones and friends despite the cancer having spread to her bones.
In an earlier interview with People, Green said of his longtime friend Doherty, “Shannen is loved, and she should be.
Green also appeared on the “Oldish” podcast to express his sentiments about Doherty and the incredible amount of courage she’s portrayed over the last few years amid her cancer battle.
He said, “She’s a fighter. She’s been facing challenges over the last, gosh, decade now that are just, they’re difficult things.
“She is absolutely leading by example and showing people that even in the toughest of times, you can keep your head up and you can be a good person…and she is, she’s an amazing person, and I think she’s an inspiration for people, she should be.”
Green’s most recent heartfelt words followed Doherty’s powerful interview with People, which she promoted this week.
“I’m not done with living. I’m not done with loving. I’m not done with creating. I’m not done with hopefully changing things for the better,” Doherty told People Magazine.
“My greatest memory is yet to come,” she added.
Shannen Doherty’s Cancer Battle
Shannen Doherty first received a breast cancer diagnosis in 2015 after she discovered a lump in her breast. For treatments the first time around, she underwent hormone therapy, a single mastectomy (the removal of all breast tissue from one breast), chemotherapy and radiation.
Then in 2017, Doherty was deemed to be in remission, however, the cancer returned just two years later in 2019 as metastatic, or stage four, breast cancer.
There is technically no cure for metastatic breast cancer, but that doesn’t mean people can’t live good, long lives with this stage of disease, thanks to hormone therapy, chemotherapy, targeted drugs and immunotherapy, as well as a combination of treatments.
Doherty took to Instagram earlier this year to recap how her cancer fight is going. She underwent her first round of radiation to her head on Jan. 12, 2023, followed by brain surgery to remove and biopsy a tumor on Jan. 16, 2023. The surgery she underwent is called a craniotomy.
Several neurosurgeons tell SurvivorNet that the procedure can allow patients with cancer in their brain to live longer, more vibrant lives, and this appears to be the case with Doherty who has recently been living her life to the fullest as she insists she’s “not done with living.”
Understanding Stage 4 (Metastatic) Breast Cancer
Stage 4, or metastatic breast cancer, means that the cancer has spread to distant areas of the body. Even though there is currently no cure for metastatic breast cancer, doctors have many options to treat this stage advanced stage of breast cancer. Shannen Doherty is a perfect example as to how people can live happily despite battling the disease.
Hormone therapy, chemotherapy and targeted drugs are all options to talk to her doctor about, depending on your individual needs. Sometimes surgery and/or radiation is considered as part of the treatment, but mainly it is important to focus on improving your quality of life.
Expert Metastatic Breast Cancer Information
- Have You Been Diagnosed With Late-Stage Breast Cancer? Know That You Have Treatment Options.
- Advances in Metastatic Breast Cancer Treatments Over the Last Year Offer New Hope for Those Fighting
- HER2-Positive Metastatic Breast Cancer Treatment Options Explained
- PARP Inhibitors Provide New Promise for Certain Metastatic Breast Cancers
- Metastatic Breast Cancer: You Are Not a Statistic
- Understanding Gene Mutations in Your Metastatic Breast Cancer Diagnosis Is Crucial to Your Treatment
The treatment plan for metastatic breast cancer patients depends on the specific needs of the woman, whether they need an aggressive chemotherapy or depending on the doctor’s assessment, they may benefit from another medication.
For hormone receptive positive cancer breast cancer patients, doctors try to see how long they can keep patients on oral therapies. Very often, newly diagnosed metastatic hormone receptive-positive breast cancers (where cells have either estrogen (ER) or progesterone (PR) receptors or both) respond best with different hormonal medications, and sometimes for many many years.
Dr. Erica Mayer, a medical oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, says clinical trials have shown that hormone medicines are more effective when paired with targeted therapies. At some point, chemotherapy will be introduced. And according to Dr. Mayer, it’s delivered at a dose and schedule that’s as well-tolerated as possible.
“We are so lucky in breast cancer that we have so many effective and well-tolerated treatments,” Dr. Mayer tells SurvivorNet. I’m so gratified to see that patients are doing better and living longer today with metastatic breast cancer than they have ever done before.”
Bottom line, there are more and more options becoming available for patients to manage symptoms of advanced stage disease, and it’s best to talk about specific treatment plans and what is best for you with your own doctor.
The Importance of Support for Cancer Survivors
It is important cancer warriors in the midst of their fight to have a strong support system, like Shannen Doherty has with her friends. So how can you support a loved on in your life who is fighting cancer? SurvivorNet suggests multiple ways you can do so.
Dr. Shelly Tworoger, a researcher at Moffitt Cancer Center told SurvivorNet that “there’s a number of common things cancer patients can experience, such as anxiety, depression, financial toxicity, social isolation and sometimes even PTSD.” So helping to ease those feelings is a great way to support your loved one.
You can help complete household chores or running errands during the day, which your loved one may not have the time or energy to do. Or, you can simply lend an ear so patients can talk through their feelings, which can help them cope with what they are experiencing during this difficult time.
Meanwhile, there are some practical tips to help you interact with your loved one in a meaningful way. Our experts suggest to avoid asking how you can help. Instead, be proactive and offer tangible things you can do for them to make their lives easier. That could include bringing them food, cooking them dinner or playing a board game with them, anything that will bring them joy.
You may also be interested in sending them gifts to help them through their cancer journey. Our gift guide for cancer patients offers several suggestions for meaningful items you can give your loved one, such as bubble bath supplies for a night of self care or a nice, warm blanket for comfort during a chemo session.
The Power of Positivity and Good Mental Health
SurvivorNet experts say, in some cases, a positive attitude may improve your prognosis. It’s evident Doherty has maintained an optimistic outlook during her cancer journey so it certainly seems this outlook amid disease can help.
WATCH: What Kind of Patients Will Maintain a Positive Attitude After a Cancer Diagnosis?
“A positive attitude is really important,” says Dr. Zuri Murrell, a colorectal surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
If you have just been diagnosed with cancer, negative feelings are normal, and remember, men and women react differently. Anger, shame, fear, anxiety. It’s to be expected.
Experienced doctors will tell you that people who find a way to work through their emotions and stay positive do end up doing better.
Dr. Charmain Jackman is a licensed psychologist and founder of InnoPsych. She echoes SurvivorNet experts on the benefits of positive mental health while facing a health diagnosis.
“In the face of a life-threatening diagnosis, fear, hopelessness, and despair can quickly take space in your mind. However, your mindset is a superpower and can be a potent antidote to illness. Practicing gratitude, cultivating joy, and connecting to the community are practical ways to develop a resilient mindset,” Dr. Jackman said.
Contributing: SurvivorNet Staff