The decision to shave off her hair was not just difficult, it was downright traumatic for Shannen Doherty.
It's a choice a lot of people undergoing cancer treatments must ultimately face, and Doherty joined their ranks in 2016 following her breast cancer diagnosis the year before. On Sunday, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the former "Beverly Hills, 90210" star posted raw, intimate photos of herself on the day she agreed to lose her long dark locks.
"When I started chemotherapy, I tried a cold cap in hopes of saving my hair," she explained in the caption of two photos (click to see both). "While it works for many and is amazing, it didn’t work for me. My hair was falling out in clumps when I washed it, I had bald spots and it became increasingly harder to cover those up."
The first photo shows Doherty, 50, bent forward, being hugged from behind, one hand on her hair. In the second image, she's holding a large clump of hair and crying.
"I finally made a decision to shave what was left of my hair," the caption continued. "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. 2016."
The post has generated emoji and words of support from several celebrities in the comments, including Roma Downey, Finola Hughes, Selma Blair and Faith Ford. Former "90210" star Brian Austin Green wrote, "I love you, I always have, and your ability to share yourself in even the hardest times in your life inspires. You’re one of the greatest people I have ever known. I’m here for you always."
One fan wrote, "I didn’t cried when I lost mine but I do when people couldn’t afford their treatments. Hair can come back but no(t) the life," to which Doherty replied, "(S)o true. A whole other conversation …. Health care."
A cold cap, according to the Mayo Clinic's website, can sometimes inhibit chemotherapy's effects on hair follicle cells. When cells are cooled they are less active, which means the drugs "don't target them as quickly."
After her diagnosis in 2015, Doherty underwent a mastectomy, then chemotherapy and radiation treatments. She went into remission in 2017, but early in 2020 she revealed that the cancer had returned, as stage 4.
Last week, she shared what she looked like with a bald head and bloodied nose, lying in bed during her treatment and recovery, with more photos on Instagram.
"Is it all pretty? NO but it’s truthful and my hope in sharing is that we all become more educated, more familiar with what cancer looks like," she wrote on that post.
In September, she told People magazine, "My husband (photographer Kurt Iswarienko) says that you would never know that I have cancer. I never really complain. I don’t really talk about it. It’s part of life at this point."