Shannen Doherty: ‘Courage is something that you gain and it grows’

Shannen Doherty was honored over the weekend at the American Cancer Society’s annual gala, where she was given an award presented by Sarah Michelle Gellar. As you know, Shannen has been battling breast cancer which spread to her lymph nodes and she’s been chronicling her treatment and recovery on social media. She’s doing ok now but she’s also not afraid to be honest about the pain and difficultly she’s been going through. Some of her photos and Instagram posts have been particularly poignant and revealing At Saturday’s gala she said that cancer has changed her, that it’s taught her what matters in life and that it’s also showed her who her true friends are, the ones who have stuck around for her.

“I’m feeling ridiculously lucky and very blessed. Cancer has changed my life for the better.

“It’s made me a better human being. It stripped away all of the walls and the barriers.

“It exposes any lie in your life whatsoever. It exposes who’s not really truly there for you and who really is there for you. It’s this brilliant thing where you just look around and think, ‘Oh my God, this person is amazing, they’re showing up for me in a way I never expected’.”

[From The Independent]

Shannen’s speech was even more inspirational. She was so well spoken and articulate about not only what she’s been going through but also how it’s affected her.

“For the last year and a half, cancer has been my teacher. It’s taught me what love, strength, friendship and support truly looks like,” she said during her acceptance speech at the gala. “It’s opened my eyes to myself and it’s allowed me to not only share my journey with people but it’s actually allowed me to share my inner self with anybody who actually wanted to know what it was like… And the end result is that I am nothing but vulnerability and, to me, vulnerability is courage.”

“Courage isn’t something that comes to you immediately. It’s not something that you have fully. Courage is something that you gain and it grows. Courage is facing every day and every obstacle one step at a time. Courage is knowing that fear is not going to find a solution; it’s not going to help you find a cure. Courage is embracing what you’re going through and trying to get through it with as much dignity as you possibly can, while also accepting your circumstances and allowing yourself to feel everything.”

[From Entertainment Tonight]

That was incredible. She also credited her courage to her husband, Kurt Iswarienko, and to her late father who passed six years ago to the day that she gave the speech. She ended with “I’m accepting this award for all the fathers out there who have taught your children to have courage, and I also accept it on behalf of every single cancer patient out there and all their caregivers.

In SMG’s introduction, she lauded Shannen for her courage and perseverance, calling her a “one-woman army.” Shannen is getting support from friends like SMG and from her mom, whom she recently posted about on Instagram, writing that her dad died six years ago and that she’s seen her mom recover and face life with the courage she’s now using in her own life. She’s an incredible person and we’re rooting for her.

Shannen also posted this nice message to SMG.

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38 Responses to “Shannen Doherty: ‘Courage is something that you gain and it grows’”

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  1. paolanqar says:

    All her former colleagues did nothing but say how much of a bitch she was and how terrible it was to work with her or for her.. but here she is showing a completely different dimension of herself and I wish her a speedy recovery and to kick cancer in the butt.

    • Alix says:

      My guess is, she probably was a bitch to work with. But what does that matter? Bitchy people get cancer, too, and we can still hope fervently for their recovery.

      • HadleyB says:

        Yes of course but there are some people who have been so bitchy and mean to me that I am not sure I could help them if they asked me.

        Several who have purposely hurt my career, and family so it would be very difficult for me to help anyone who did that who knows what she has done to people in the past? It maybe have been more than just being bitchy at work.

        And while I hope she gets better, maybe the reason she has no friends is because of how she treated people in the past and just because you get cancer doesn’t mean all is forgiven.

      • paranormalgirl says:

        She has friends. Where are you getting that she has no friends? She said she is learning who her true friends are and what friendship looks like.

      • Helen Back says:

        Yes, very , very sad to see anyone suffer. Come on Brenda!! Bring it to cancer.
        I feel she will recover.

      • Yes, very , very sad to see anyone suffer. Come on Brenda!! Bring it to cancer.
        I feel she will recover.

    • Digital Unicorn (aka Betti) says:

      She has admitted that she wasn’t easy to work with early in her career and that she has a strong personality who is not afraid to stand up for herself. She clashed badly with Alyssa Milano on the set of Charmed which was. allegedly, the reason she left.

      I have always been a fan of hers and wish her a full recovery.

      • Bridget says:

        There’s “strong opinions” and then making everyone miserable. She was difficult to work with because she partied hard and was a jerk. That doesn’t mean she deserves cancer, but this wasn’t a scenario where she was just standing up for herself.

      • Lex says:

        Oh well – every single person has done things they regret or would regret if they had evidence of things they’d done or said (memories are really bad for actually remembering haha)

        These facebook ‘memories’ have shown me statuses I posted 9 or 10 years ago as a teenager and I was gobsmacked that I’d every even think some of the things I posted. But there you go. All I can do is delete the post, learn from my mistake, try to be a better person.

    • Goats on the Roof says:

      She was hell on wheels in years past, but it really sounds like she’s grown up. Sending positivity and well-wishes to Shannen and her family.

    • Timbuktu says:

      Well, one doesn’t contradict the other, and if her speech is truly heart-felt, she could have changed a lot just in the recent months.

  2. Alix says:

    Never a big fan but God bless her, I hope she gets well.

    Maybe not a popular opinion, but: while I understand Doherty’s comments were apropos in light of her receiving a courage award, they remind me of the fact that cancer patients (female patients especially, and almost always those with breast cancer) are very much expected in our society to portray their cancer battle as a blessing in disguise, a life lesson, a growth opportunity, what-have-you, for which their lives have become much better/stronger/etc. While many patients may indeed feel this way, society pretty damn well *expects* them to. Cancer is a shitty, godawful disease that no one in their right mind would wish upon themselves, regardless of the so-called “gifts” they’ve discovered in fighting it. Isn’t it enough to battle this hideous disease without being subtly pressured to experience it (publicly, at least) as some life-changing miracle?

    My sister died of breast cancer almost five years ago. And while yes, having the disease did change her priorities and viewpoints in many ways, she never romanticized it. Too busy hauling herself up a flight of stairs with an oxygen tank because she still insisted on doing the laundry.

    • Sixer says:

      I hear you. And RIP your sister. I got Mr Sixer to do the laundry but I was still changing nappies!

      My pet peeve is the “battle” analogy, which always makes me feel that those who don’t make it did what? Not fight well enough?

      FWIW – I didn’t have breast cancer but did have another cancer. It did not make me a better person. It made me a furious person. I was angry all the way through treatment. When treatment stopped, I was scared for ages in case it came back. I don’t recall anything life-affirming about it AT ALL.

      • lightpurple says:

        Nope. Not life-affirming at all. And I didn’t choose to do battle. I did what I had to do and it worked for me but it doesn’t work for everyone.

      • Sixer says:

        I thought you would say that, m’dear.

      • Pip says:

        Yup, another one here. I got so fed up with being called “brave”, especially when accompanied by that special head tilt. It’s not brave but there aren’t that many options – you just have to carry on putting one foot in front of the other. Well, you don’t HAVE to & I’ve contemplated checking out many, many times. But my OH & cat would be gutted.

        &, yes, it’s a shitty experience. Nothing remotely positive. & it brings up all sorts of long-buried crap & demonstrates that certain people really don’t give a toss.

        Sorry, am feeling low after a really tough 13 months & especially having just had to dance attendance on my mother who has never once lifted a finger to help me, either as a child or recently when I was coping with breast cancer. It must be lovely to be a narcissist.

      • RuddyZooKeeper says:

        Could not agree more. Anytime I hear it said that someone “lost their battle with cancer” I want to scream! To imply that those who die somehow gave up, aren’t fighters, or maybe just didn’t want to live badly enough. Oooh I get so angry.

      • antipodean says:

        @Pup, I was just thinking about you the other day, and wondering where you had got to! Hope you are doing well. My lovely twin sister had breast cancer over seven years ago now, and she still lives in fear of it recurring. She had an iffy ultra-sound last year, and for me it was full on panic until she was mercifully cleared by a biopsy. I also had a biopsy a couple of years ago, and all I can recall of it in the time I waited for the results was how the technician got shitty with me because I bled profusely all over her machine, because she had to have two goes to get a sample! Not a dignified or uplifting experience in the slightest way. I give Mr Antipodean rockets when He complains about having to bend over for a prostate exam. He’s lucky he doesn’t have to lie on his back with his legs in the air every year for a Pap smear! Why are women’s tests for cancer so much more invasive than men’s? Or is that just my imagination?
        I recall we have talked before about narcissistic mothers, and how we are both cursed by them. It sounds as if your mater is still dispensing her venom. Stand strong and take comfort from the fact that there are so many others who know that pain, and are in full sympathy with you. Peace and healing to you, and give your kitty cat a big hug from his/her Down Under virtual pal!

      • Wrenaus says:

        Well I did find my diagnosis life affirming – but only because my breast cancer was non invasive (just found out yesterday!). Mastectomy got that horrid cancer out of me and now I am going organic, quitting my job, downsizing all of my assets and changing my life to focus on my kids and my husband. I want to become a foster carer and spend my time doing things to help others. It’s not changed me as a person as I always wanted to do these things – but I just never took action. Now I’m getting off my butt and making life happen. So although it is tough and even now I’m not sure how this will impact me long term (I was only diagnosed in September) I feel like I have a better understanding on where I should be spending my time and with whom I should be sharing that time. It is scary and heart wrenching and I was so scared of the Unknown. But is was life affirming for me – just an alternate view.

    • Kate says:

      So much this. I had cancer. Every part of it was pure shit. Didn’t learn any lessons, didn’t change as a person, my priorities were just fine without it and it didn’t make me stronger. It was just a garbage 18 months of pain and sickness.

      • Neo says:

        Thank you Kate. I was hoping someone with some credibility would shoot down the blessing in disguise thing.

      • Lenn says:

        Same here. Breastcancer. It was complete hell. It didn’t teach me what’s important in life, I already knew that before it happened. There was just one thing going through my mind: please please please let me live. Fear is all I felt. That doesn’t mean I didn’t get up and get going, take care of my son and live life, but I was SO afraid. It was a nightmare. For me, my son, my husband. We need to also hear this from eachother. Fighting a battle, being tough and courageous, that was just not what I identified with. Fighting makes no f*#ing difference. You can ‘fight’ and still die.

      • Lenn says:

        We as a society need to tell eachother that it is okay to be weak and afraid in the face of a lifethreatening disease. You are not a failure for it.

    • Timbuktu says:

      Thank you for saying that ! I was fortunate not to experience cancer first hand or even second hand, but yeah, I absolutely feel, just from reading stories about public people who went through it, and I do always marvel at the way the conversation is framed. Cancer is scary and unfair and sheesh, if a person with cancer wants just to be completely sad and feel mad and sorry for him- or herself, who am I to tell them to look for uplifting life lessons in this?

    • I Choose Me says:

      Condolences on the loss of your sister, Alix.

      I’ve never had cancer but I do have a disabled husband who has complications from a brain tumor and suffers from chronic pain. I hear you all and if he was reading this, he would agree with you all the way.

    • Elizabeth says:

      “Isn’t it enough to battle this hideous disease without being subtly pressured to experience it (publicly, at least) as some life-changing miracle?”

      Very perceptive, subtle, and well said. Brava.

  3. serena says:

    I thought she was close to Holly Marie Combs, they used to always post picture together on social media (I follow them, because I loved Charmed) but lately I haven’t seen anything.. I wonder if she was referring to her as she spoke about ‘friends who stuck around’.. mm, hope that’s not the case.

    • Digital Unicorn (aka Betti) says:

      I think i saw a photo of them together with a message of support from Holly when she first announced it but i could be mistaken.

    • Jenna says:

      I feel a little awkward talking about this (because her cancer is so much important), but I had wondered this myself. She mentioned on Chelsea Handler’s show how she’s learned who her real friends are, and how some of her friends had requested she stopped talking about cancer for a change, or something along those lines. I don’t want to create anything, but it was a little odd how they went from super-tight to suddenly separate all over social media. Didn’t they have a reality show like a year ago? Where they traveled the country together or something?

      Regardless, I pray for her recovery. She’s exhibited so much strength through this. Always been such a fan of hers, even in her TV mega-bitch days haha. She was THE 90s bad girl for me.

      • serena says:

        Yes, they seemed really tight (also from before Charmed, so a long time) that’s why I was wondering and kind of sad if that was the case.
        I really admire her strenght and the courage it took to share it, I hope she’ll have a full recovery.

  4. Bridget says:

    I’m conflicted. Shannen has been a notoriously unpleasant person over the years, and while I respect how much she’s fought her cancer battle (and how humbling that is) having cancer doesn’t automatically make her an incredible person. I certainly don’t wish this on anyone, but I also don’t agree with the deification of someone just because they’re sick.

    • QQ says:

      Yoooo You totally put words to exactly what makes me so uncomfortable about this post/Shannen Coverage/etc Hopefully she beats this but 100% cosign to everything you said

    • jugil1 says:

      @Bridget, Exactly! As QQ stated, you put words to my thoughts exactly. I certainly wish her a full recovery but that doesn’t negate her unpleasant attitude overall.

  5. Jaded says:

    OK my two cents’ worth. I’m currently undergoing treatment for breast cancer. Had surgery last week – I now have a “Frankenboob”. Facing a month of radiation in December and several months of chemo in the new year. Sure it’s a battle, every serious illness is a battle. My loving partner has Type I diabetes and every day is a fistfight with his blood levels.

    This has NOT given me “courage” or made me “brave” or anything special. I’ve accepted my diagnosis with a sense of relative calm and detachment, otherwise I’d be a blubbering mess every day and there’s nothing that can be accomplished through wallowing in self-pity. I do what I can to research and learn what tweaks I can make to my diet and nutritional supplements, I see a naturopath as well as a medical doctor, and I take time every day to do some meditation and reiki. These things are what will help me survive, not thinking that I’m some kind of “blessed” to have experienced this. I’d rather experience chronic hemorrhoids.

    Other than that, I’m not a warrior woman or a hero of any kind. Life deals you some shit and you deal with that shit. Period. And hopefully you have some wonderful friends and family around you to keep you laughing and loved.

    That’s it.

  6. Beer&Crumpets says:

    My mom died of B cell lymphoma on July 17th of 2013. It took her down fast- she was dead less than a year after her after her diagnosis. So that “battle” shit pisses me off, too. My mom tried to live but she didn’t and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t because she didn’t fight hard enough. I’m pretty sure she did all she could.

    • MrsBadBob says:

      Sincere sympathy, it sucks to lose your Mom, no matter when or how, but she’ll always be in your heart.