Shannen Doherty Delivers Emotional Gala Speech: "Cancer Has Been My Teacher"

Sarah Michelle Gellar and Shannon Doherty - Lead
Photo: Vivien Killilea/Getty

If there's anyone in this world who is embodying courage right now, it's Shannen Doherty. That's why her Courage Award at the American Cancer Society's Giants of Science Gala couldn't have been more fitting.

Clad in a fall-perfect navy velvet suit, the actress received the distinction from friend Sarah Michelle Gellar. And her speech left not a dry eye in the room as she spoke about her ongoing battle with breast cancer.

"For the last year and a half, cancer has been my teacher," Doherty said in her speech. "It's taught me what love, strength, friendship, and support truly looks like."

"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," she continued. "And the end result is that I am nothing but vulnerability and, to me, vulnerability is courage."

The actress had her support squad there with her: husband Kurt Iswarienko, Chelsea Handler, model Anne Kortright, Dr. Lawrence Piro, Chris Cortazzo, and stylist Deborah Waknin-Harwin.

"You guys are my courage," said Doherty of her loving friends and family. "You're the wizard in the Wizard of Oz. I was the [Cowardly Lion] and I didn't think I had courage and you all gave me my courage—and I thank you for that."

The moment was made even more heartfelt, as it was the sixth anniversary of the death of Doherty's father.

"He also had his own health problems, and I watched him face life with such joy and love—and it has just inspired me to be as much like my father as humanly possible, in his battle," she confessed. "So, I want to accept this award, not for myself—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."

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