Like so many of us who have been through cancer, the actress Shannen Doherty is embracing the idea that one of the secrets to living life is giving. Doherty, 48, best known for her role playing Brenda Walsh in the original TV series, “Beverly Hills, 90210” and the current series reboot, “BH90210,” is reminding pet owners fleeing the fire that started in Saddlebridge, California today not to leave their pets behind.
In the years since the original 90210 show, Doherty has been through a lot — including, most recently, breast cancer. She’s said in the past that she doesn’t really think anyone is ever on the other side of cancer, and that one of the most difficult parts of recovering from the disease is how dramatically her body has changed.
Coping With Breast Cancer -- Shannen Doherty's Journey
- The Secret To Living Is Giving — Actress Shannen Doherty Says She Wants To Help A Puppy Find A Home After Her Breast Cancer Journey
- “I Felt More Feminine And Vulnerable Than I’ve Felt In My Entire Life”– Actress Shannen Doherty And Growing After Breast Cancer
- “Laughter’s Always Been The Best Medicine” — After Cancer Treatment, Shannen Doherty Laughs Her Way Through Recovery
SurvivorNet has spoken with a number of people who say that pet therapy has helped them through very difficult times. One of them, a bone cancer survivor named Richard Marks, talked to us about pet therapy, and how it can be beneficial for people grieving, people going through treatment, and the pets themselves!
Marks said spending time with some pooches can really take your mind off your struggles during chemotherapy. “When I’m doing chemotherapy, I’m waiting and times going by. Maybe I’m worrying about my numbers or how treatment is going. And all of the sudden a cute little dog goes by, then I’m not thinking about those things,” Richard told SurvivorNet. “I’m only thinking about that dog.”
Bone marrow cancer survivor Richard Marks talks about how his pooch helped him through cancer
It turns out, finding joy in family pets as a means to cope with grief — or even to cope with your own cancer battle — is a fairly common practice.
Richard’s pet therapy was courtesy of The Good Dog Foundation — which is an organization that promotes recovery from trauma and stress using animal-assisted therapy services. In Richard’s case, he spent his chemotherapy days with a rescue dog named Bowie. Sarah Conroy, Bowie’s owner, became certified to visit hospitals with her pooch through the Good Dog Foundation. She told SurvivorNet that Bowie loves visiting his friends in the hospital, but for him “It’s more about getting pet messages.”
Alison Snow, who works in cancer support services at Mount Sinai, told SurvivorNet that there is research to show that the animal visits to hospitals can be super beneficial to people battling cancer, as well as other ailments.
“You can hear the excitement in the air when the dog is around and there is research to show that having animal-assisted visits is helpful to patients going through cancer in terms of lowering blood pressure, reducing anxiety, decreasing depression, and overall, helping patients feel less isolated,” she said.
Cancer survivor Shannen Doherty and her love of pets and pups
In a Instagram post, Doherty put out a reminder to those fleeing the fires in California today to make sure they bring their pets along and care for them, even in this really hard situation. She also shouted out to Animal Hope and Wellness, who she says are there to help.
“Praying for all impacted by the fires. Stay safe and please don’t leave animals behind. @animalhopeandwellness is on the ground assisting with animals if you need help. Stay safe everyone,” she wrote in the post.
This comes after she posted a photo of a puppy without a home, and tried to use her resources to save his life through adoption. Doherty called upon her friends to support the animal shelter, in the post, “Look at this sweet boy who’s so depressed from being at shelter and abandoned. Let’s network and get him adopted. Visit @urgentdogsofmiami for more info.”
And a lot of her supporters commented to share in the giving sentiment, “Breaks my heart, wish I could have more dogs. God bless you for your help and love”
“I send you living big kisses in your cheeks from mind as all i can do for you and many alike in”
“Sending positive vibes that be finds his furever home ASAP! How can anyone turn their back on that cute face. [crying emoji]”
Doherty’s cancer journey
Actress Shannen Doherty is opening up about her breast cancer, and about the fears that she, like so many breast cancer patients, has had to overcome.
“There was a lump, and I had a mammogram and then a biopsy. When I got the results, I was in the car with my mom and I just knew,” Doherty tells Health. “The longer I sat, the more it started sinking in. Then I started crying. I called my husband and told him. And from there, I just put together a team—including L.A.-based surgeons Dr. Armando Giuliano and Dr. Jay Orringer and oncologist Dr. Lawrence Piro.”
When asked why she is talking openly about it, she said she wanted to be honest. “It was just about being as honest as possible. And then it became very important to me that I was there for people who were going through it,” she says. “I would never give medical advice because I’m not a doctor, but I would always say, ‘Advocate for yourself.’ And also, I get a little less trolls and haters on social media now, so that’s good. I think because cancer stripped me of my defense mechanisms, it allowed people to see all sides of me.”
When asked about the hardest parts of her journey with cancer, Doherty replied that it was hard to lose her hair. “I remember I got in the shower to wash my hair, and it just started coming out in clumps. I started screaming for my mom. I think that was harder than the surgeries. It was like, ‘Oh my God, this is real.’ Right away, I made the decision to shave my head,” she says. “My friend came over, and she shaved it. We laughed, and we cried. She shaved it in stages, so it was like a pageboy, then punk rock, shaved on the sides. It was a fun experience, considering that I was devastated.”
She also talked about a really important moment she shared with her husband Kurt during her cancer journey. “A pivotal moment for me was when I was deathly ill from the chemo. They were worried about my organs shutting down because I couldn’t keep anything in. One time, I couldn’t lift my head, I couldn’t suck on an ice cube, I was done” she says. “And Kurt was crying, saying, ‘Please don’t leave me.’ I looked at him and thought, ‘I can’t do this to him.’ So I dug deep, gathered everything up, and charged forward again. Kurt and I got through one of the worst things a couple can go through, and we came out stronger.”
Doherty and body image after cancer
The star says she’s been cancer-free since 2017, but in a new interview with People, she shared that surviving cancer permanently changed her body, and that she’s still learning to accept those changes.
“The funny thing with cancer is that once you’re no longer on chemo or radiation, people think you’re fine, that you bounce back,” Doherty said. “But what they don’t realize is that your body has been through something so incredibly difficult that [it] never fully bounces back.”
It was 2015 when Doherty first received her diagnosis: an advanced form of breast cancer, which had spread to her lymph nodes. The actress underwent a challenging treatment regimen, which included hormone therapy, chemotherapy, radiation, and a mastectomy. The treatment continued for two years until Doherty was finally declared cancer-free in 2017. Her cancer, she said, has been in remission ever since, but the disease still weighs on her, both mentally and physically.
Doherty is still adjusting to the ways that cancer changed her body. The star had a surgery to reconstruct her breasts in 2018, called a “DIEP flap,” in which surgeons take tissue from another part of the body (usually the lower abdomen) and use it to reconstruct a breast.
Dr. Andrea Pusic, Chief of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, explained the procedure in a previous conversation with SurvivorNet about breast reconstruction options after cancer surgery. “Effectively, it looks very much like a tummy tuck operation,” Dr. Pusic said. “But it’s more complicated than that, because we’re taking the tissue off and hooking it up to blood vessels that are just under the ribs in the chest area… to make a breast.”
After recovering from the surgery and returning to work on the “BH90210” set, Doherty said she’s trying her best to take care of her body.
“I came out of [cancer treatment] in as good of a condition I think somebody [in my situation] could be in,” she said. “[But] I’m exhausted. And I’m really terrible with self-care. When I’m at work, I have a tunnel vision mentality.”
Doherty said she’s been critical of herself and her body.
“I’m never going to be the size I used to be,” she said. “Some of my meds that I’m on keep zapping the collagen out of me, so I’m never going to have a wrinkle-free face. I’m critical of myself. But there are some things you can’t fight.”