The 47-year-old actress has been in remission for nearly two years and is opening up in a huge way about her harrowing ordeal and why she finally feels like her life has changed for the better.
“I felt more feminine and vulnerable than I’ve felt in my entire life,” Doherty told Health magazine for its March issue. “I was always used to being the strong one, and during that time period, every wall I’d built up in my life came down. I also had a lot more time to look at myself and say, ‘I’m a pretty okay person’ and cut myself some slack. I’ve had a lot of those epiphanies. It’s OK to stumble.”
In fighting arduously for survival, Doherty decided to share her journey with her followers on social media – something she said offered her the ability to act as a support system for anyone else battling cancer as well.
“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 said. “I would never give medical advice because I’m not a doctor, but I would always say, ‘Advocate for yourself.’”
In exposing her road to remission to the boundless depths of social media, Doherty said the decision actually deterred the cornucopia of criticism she regularly received from detractors and helped strip her of any barriers she used to combat the negativity.
“I get a little less trolls and haters on social media now, so that’s good,” she explained. “I think because cancer stripped me of my defense mechanisms, it allowed people to see all sides of me.”
During her numerous chemotherapy treatments, the “90210” alum said that one of the most difficult moments of her battle was when she discovered locks of hair were falling out – which is when she ultimately made the decision to shave her head.
“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,” Doherty lamented. “I think that was harder than the surgeries. It was like, ‘Oh my God, this is real.’”
Still, Doherty pushed on in her quest to beat cancer. But, the former “Charmed” actress recalled a time where she was certain the cancer had gotten the best of her and would spell doom for her and her husband Kurt Iswarienko.
“They were worried about my organs shutting down because I couldn’t keep anything in,” she detailed. “One time, I couldn’t lift my head, I couldn’t suck on an ice cube, I was done. 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.”
For many cancer fighters and survivors, the uncertainty of whether cancerous cells will return following remission is what often keeps them and their loved ones up at night. Despite being in remission, Doherty has a new challenge on her plate – the allure of motherhood.
Doherty and Iswarienko are now faced with the difficult decision of determining if and how they will ever have children –since the effects of ongoing chemotherapy have forced her into menopause.
“We’re having conversations about an egg donor, maybe adoption. But there’s fear there,” she said. “Am I going to last five years? Ten years? I certainly wouldn’t want my 10-year-old burying a mother. I’ve always wanted a kid. But maybe I’m supposed to mother in a different way.”
However, for the time being, Doherty is proud of herself and so many cancer survivors and fighters for not giving up and continuing to fight.
“I love that my body is strong and that it has the ability to fight something like cancer,” she said. “I’m trying to show it more appreciation by going to a nutritionist, Dr. Philip Goglia, and doing strength training and boxing at Box ’N Burn almost every day. My perception of sexy has changed.”
“For me now, sexy is strength. Sexy is vulnerability. Sexy is compassion. Sexy is grace. Why should I care so much about the physical shell?”