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Shannen Doherty is giving the world a more intimate look at her cancer journey.
To mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Doherty revealed heartbreaking photos of herself as she went through treatment and made the decision to shave her head.
"While it works for many and is amazing, it didn’t work for me," Doherty said. "My hair was falling out in clumps when I washed it, I had bald spots and it became increasingly harder to cover those up."
She concluded: "I finally made a decision to shave what was left of my hair. It was a battle on its own. I loved my hair. It had defined me to a certain extent and provided me with a security blanket of sorts. I’m sharing with you the day the decision was made to shave my head."
The actress also posted photos on Instagram Thursday, this time showing a bald Doherty sporting a bloody tissue, one of “many nose bleeds” she has suffered during chemotherapy treatment.
“Is it all pretty?” Doherty wrote in the post’s caption. “No, but it’s truthful, and my hope in sharing is that we all become more educated (and) more familiar with what cancer looks like. I hope I encourage people to get mammograms, to get regular checkups, to cut through the fear and face whatever might be in front of you.”
Doherty, 50, was diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2015 and revealed to USA TODAY in August 2016 that it had spread to her lymph nodes. After undergoing a single mastectomy that year, she completed radiation and chemotherapy treatments in February 2017; she announced she was in remission two months later.
“The unknown is always the scariest part,” she told USA TODAY in 2016. "Is the chemo going to work? Is the radiation going to work?
“You know, am I going to have to go through this again, or am I going to get secondary cancer? Everything else is manageable. Pain is manageable, you know, living without a breast is manageable; it's the worry of your future and how your future is going to affect the people that you love.”
Even when she was in remission, Doherty opened up to People in August 2019 about the uncertainty that characterizes life after treatment.
“I don’t think you’re ever on the other side (of cancer),” she said at the time. “I don’t think about the fact that I’m in remission. I look at it like I’m lucky to be alive every minute, every second of the day.”
Last February, she revealed on "Good Morning America" that she had a recurrence, and her cancer had metastasized." At the time, Doherty wrote in an Instagram post that she had faith in her ability to navigate the overwhelming period in her life.
“To say I have stress is an understatement,” Doherty captioned the post. “To say that I’m struggling is mild, but ... I believe that I will find my footing. I’ll dig deep for the inner strength I need to face it all.
“I pray I do it all with dignity and grace. I have so much to say, so much to share. I will – for now ... please know how much you all help lift me."
In last week's Instagram post, the actor wrote that a sense of humor has helped her in navigating her condition. A second photo shows Doherty wearing a Cookie Monster pajama set, given to her by her friend Kristy.
“Finding humor helped get me through what seemed impossible,” Doherty wrote. “I hope we all find humor in the impossible.”
Doherty’s battle with cancer hasn’t slowed her down professionally: She has completed work on three films set to be released within the next two years. Doherty stars in back-to-back fall films for Lifetime: “Dying to Belong,” a remake of the 1997 film that starred Hilary Swank and Mark-Paul Gosselaar, and the cancer drama “List of a Lifetime.” The action thriller “Fortress” co-stars Bruce Willis and Chad Michael Murray.
'We are employable': Shannen Doherty advocates for people with cancer in the workplace
Doherty told Variety in a late-September interview that continuing to work in the entertainment industry helps send a message about the viability of cancer patients in the workplace.
“The best example that I can continue to set for other people with cancer, and to the outside world who doesn’t have cancer, is to show them what a cancer patient looks like,” Doherty said. “We are employable. So, for me, I’m just trying to live the best I can, to be the best example at this moment.”
Doherty scored a victory in the legal realm Monday, when a Los Angeles federal jury awarded her $6.3 million in a lawsuit against State Farm, after the insurance company allegedly failed to pay sufficiently for damage to her house in a 2018 California wildfire.
Contributing: Hannah Yasharoff
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Shannen Doherty makes personal post for Breast Cancer Awareness Month