Shannen Doherty’s cancer struggle made her a ‘better human being’

The former 90210 TV star reminds us that life challenges can strengthen our character if we choose to let them.

Shannen Doherty attends Hollywood Unites for the 5th Biennial Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) on September 2016 in Los Angeles. Jason LaVeris | FilmMagic

People change. Not always, of course, and not with ease, but it’s nice to be reminded that people can (and do!) change for the better, even late in life.

That thought ran through my head this week when I saw the American Cancer Society honor actress Shannen Doherty with a courage award on Saturday, November 5. The former 90210 actress stood up at the society’s gala and admitted something difficult and deeply personal about her illness: that cancer had made her a “better human being.” The statement not only acknowledged the actress’s self-awareness of the prickly reputation of her youth, but also the wisdom that sometimes it’s the hardest struggles that shine the brightest light on life.

MORE TO READ: Shannen Doherty bravely documents her cancer treatment on Instagram (PHOTOS)

According to Cheat Sheet, Doherty used to be so difficult to work with as an actress on Beverly Hills, 90210 that her character was written off the show in an effort to get rid of her. (Though producer Aaron Spelling downplayed the tabloid rumors when he told People that Doherty’s simply “a very honest person who wears her emotions on her sleeve.”) And it took a long time before that “difficult to work with” reputation began to fade. It wasn’t until 2011 that the public saw an inkling of a newfound humility, when Doherty owned up to some of her rumored mistakes in her book, Bad-ss: A Hard-Earned Guide to Living Life with Style and (the Right) Attitude.

But the 45-year-old star seems to be undergoing a much deeper change in recent years. Doherty, who was diagnosed with cancer in February 2015, genuinely seems to believe she’s finally on the path to truth. Of course no one would wish such a terrible illness on anybody, but Doherty says the experience has been an unexpectedly positive one for her soul:

“I’m feeling ridiculously lucky and very blessed,” Doherty told the Press Association. “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.”

What’s beautiful and hard and interesting about cancer is that it tears you down and builds you, and tears you down and builds you.”

The actress thinks cancer has offered her clarity of vision when it comes to her personal relationships, too.

“[Cancer] exposes any lie in your life whatsoever,” said Doherty in the same interview. “It exposes who’s not really there for you and who really is there for you,” she told the news outlet. “It’s this brilliant thing where you just look around and think … ‘this person is amazing, they’re showing up for me in a way I never expected.’”

This isn’t the first time that Doherty has attributed her self-proclaimed personal growth to her disease. Last month, she appeared on Chelsea, the Netflix interview show, and her words were so touching that she brought the host to tears.

“I think what’s beautiful and hard and interesting about cancer is that it tears you down and builds you, and tears you down and builds you,” she said. “And it remakes you so many different times. So, the person I thought I was supposed to be or was going to be, or who I thought I was six months ago, is now somebody completely different.”

MORE TO READ: Cancer patient skips chemo to spend her time left on an epic road trip

Despite how emotional the star’s revelations have been, Doherty has been delivering these statements very calmly and bravely. It seems that even at her most vulnerable, she is finding a new security and strength in life, and using that to make positive changes. It’s a journey many of us are familiar with, and one we can all hope she continues to work on. Because it’s lovely to support someone—anyone—who has realized how to humble themselves and count their blessings. Even (and maybe especially if) it wasn’t an easy path to get there.

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