Shannen Doherty on living with breast cancer: People 'instantly think it’s a death sentence and it’s not'

Elena Sheppard
Shannen Doherty is trying to change the narrative on what living with cancer looks like. (REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
Shannen Doherty is trying to change the narrative on what living with cancer looks like. (REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Shannen Doherty is living with stage IV cancer, but don’t make assumptions about her health.

"I want people to not hear stage IV cancer and think of the person that is gray and falling over and they can't move and they're going into hospice and they can't work," Doherty, 49, shared in a recent Entertainment Tonight interview, during which she was interviewed by her good friend Sarah Michelle Gellar, 43. "You get written off so quickly, even though you're vital and healthy and happy and wanting to go out there and work. So, I'm sharing in order to hopefully give a different face to all of this.”

In February, Doherty announced that her breast cancer had advanced to stage IV, a diagnosis she hid from the public for the previous year because “[People] look at you like you’re dead man walking, basically, and that they need to say their goodbyes to you,” she had told Good Morning America’s Amy Robach. The actress initially shared that she had breast cancer in 2015, which went into remission two years later.

In the new interview, Doherty told Gellar that she filmed last year’s BH: 90210, a reboot featuring original cast members, after she received her late-stage diagnosis, but she didn’t want to tell anyone yet — she wanted to keep working. “It was a way to honor my cancer family...at least when it comes out that I have stage IV, I will have been able to say, ‘Yes but I worked throughout it.’”

Sarah Michelle Gellar (L) and Shannen Doherty have been best friends for years. (Photo: Amanda Edwards/WireImage)
Sarah Michelle Gellar (L) and Shannen Doherty have been best friends for years. (Photo: Amanda Edwards/WireImage)

The former Charmed star, who is “strong and healthy and confident and happy” said she appreciates questions about her health, not assumptions, “There are so many different things that go into how a person’s body is reacting and dealing with cancer and people don’t consider that. So they instantly just think it’s a death sentence and it’s not.”

The women also took time to acknowledge their years-long friendship. “It's so nice for me to have a female friend that feels no threat, no jealousy. We have never felt that with each other,” said Doherty. “We've done nothing but lift each other up and support each other in our careers and champion one another.”

Gellar agreed. "I haven't had the easiest time working with a lot of women and it's never been the most positive," she said. "But to have someone that believes in me the way you do when I don't believe in myself ...that shows me how to fight for the things that are important to me and the things that I want and the things that I deserve..."

The former Buffy the Vampire Slayer star added, "In this industry, where women are so often pitted against each other and it's not about supporting other women, to have someone that I know loves me for me. I'm very lucky."

Doherty is living on her terms, one day at a time. “Everybody's terminal. I might live a lot longer than somebody who's perfectly healthy. You have no idea,” she told Gellar. “I think that almost every cancer patient is sort of chasing it. You're chasing the meds. Your meds keep working and working and working and then at some point, perhaps your body shuts down to them and you run out of different protocols to use. But really, you're just hoping that by the time that happens, they have something else. And normally they do.”

Read more from Yahoo Entertainment: