The 'Beverly Hills, 90210' star opens up in PEOPLE's latest cover story about her Stage 4 cancer diagnosis and how she hopes to inspire others by focusing on her future
Shannen Doherty doesn’t mince words.
“I don’t want to die,” she asserts as a sliver of Los Angeles sunshine falls across her face on the set of her PEOPLE cover shoot four days before Thanksgiving.
The actress — who is best known for her roles on the hit ’90s TV show Beverly Hills, 90210 and later, Charmed — is characteristically candid, upbeat and dry-witted as she opens up about her Stage 4 breast cancer that has spread to her bones.
As she continues to receive treatment, the 52-year-old is more determined than ever to keep moving forward. “I’m not done with living. I’m not done with loving. I’m not done with creating. I’m not done with hopefully changing things for the better,” she says, cracking a smile. "I’m just not — I’m not done.”
Doherty’s eight-year journey with cancer has led her to reflect on the big picture of her life, a theme she will explore on her memoir-style podcast, Let’s Be Clear with Shannen Doherty, premiering Dec. 6 on iHeartRadio, where she plans to discuss everything from career highlights and past relationships to the numerous stages of her illness and health regimens.
After her initial breast cancer diagnosis in 2015 that she first shared with PEOPLE, Doherty had a mastectomy and underwent chemotherapy and radiation.
In April 2017, she revealed on Instagram she went into remission. But by 2019, the cancer returned — and she announced her diagnosis of metastatic stage 4 cancer the following year.
“When you ask yourself, ‘Why me? Why did I get cancer?’ and then ‘Why did my cancer come back? Why am I stage 4?,’ that leads you to look for the bigger purpose in life,” she explains.
She hopes to raise awareness and funds for cancer research — while showing that people with terminal cancer still have plenty to contribute to the world. “It’s insane to me [that] we still don’t have a cure,” she says.
“He had to get removed and dissected to see his pathology,” she explains. “It was definitely one of the scariest things I’ve ever been through in my entire life.”
Right now, Doherty hopes to get into clinical trials as new treatments are developed. (It is estimated 168,000 people are living with metastatic breast cancer, according to the Susan G. Komen organization.) But she is most driven by her desire to prove that she can work despite her cancer diagnosis. And it's that deep-seated sense of discipline that helps her carry on.
“People just assume that it means you can’t walk, you can’t eat, you can’t work. They put you out to pasture at a very early age —‘You’re done, you’re retired,’ and we’re not,” she says. “We’re vibrant, and we have such a different outlook on life. We are people who want to work and embrace life and keep moving forward.”
Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer.
Each morning, the actress feels grateful for another day with her friends, her family and her German shepherd Bowie.
"My greatest memory is yet to come," she says. "I pray. I wake up and go to bed thanking God, praying for the things that matter to me without asking for too much. It connects me to a higher power and spirituality. My faith is my mantra.”
As she explains, when you have cancer, everything is more poignant, and the sky is bluer.
“I know it sounds cheesy and crazy, but you’re just more aware of everything, and you feel so blessed. We’re the people who want to work the most, because we’re just so grateful for every second, every hour, every day we get to be here.”
For more on Shannen Doherty's cancer journey and how she's finding moments of joy amid her diagnosis, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
For more People news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!
Read the original article on People.