Now the actress feels ready to prioritize her career again.
“I don’t want cancer to be the only thing I’m focused on,” Doherty, 47, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “I’m an actor first and foremost. I love my craft.”
For her first major role following her diagnosis, Doherty stars in Lifetime’s No One Would Tell remake — as the mother of a girl in an abusive relationship who goes missing.
“That movie is very relevant to what’s happening today,” she says. “Abuse on any level — whether it’s physical, sexual, emotional, verbal — is being called out.”
Doherty, who’s now in remission, says her health challenges have made her a better actor. “Cancer helps me get in touch with everything within myself, so I have a lot more to draw on,” she explains. “Certainly cancer in general made me a much more aware of what really matters in life. You become aware that it’s all the little things that make the day an amazing day or make the year an amazing year. And all of that is something you can use in your acting.”
RELATED VIDEO: Shannen Doherty Gets ‘Sexy Parisian’ Haircut as She Grows Out Her Hair Post-Chemo
The Beverly Hills, 90201 alum also feels more confident in her work.
“I think I was less fearful of making mistakes and trying different things,” she says of filming No One Would Tell. “You’re not nearly as worried about judgment, and there’s a freedom in that.”
Doherty has never been a fan of watching herself, but preparing for reconstructive surgery while shooting the Lifetime drama made it even harder for her to feel comfortable seeing herself on screen.
“I think any woman or man, anytime that you go through something like reconstruction or prior to reconstruction, obviously you’re not feeling 100 percent about yourself,” she says. “But at the same time, I think you’re just so grateful to be alive.”
Accordingly, Doherty has no plans to watch No One Would Tell‘s debut on Sunday. “I cannot subject myself to the scrutiny that I would give myself,” the Charmed star shares.
- For more on Shannen Doherty, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on stands Friday
Instead, she finds joy in life’s day-to-day blessings.
“I just planted a vegetable garden — it’s organic, biodynamic — I’m kind of obsessed with my vegetable garden right now,” Doherty reveals. “I like to hang out with my husband, and I hang out with my mom a lot. Sarah Michelle Gellar‘s one of my closest friends and we’re planning her daughter’s birthday party right now, so we’re very excited.”
She continues, “I’m about to go get my hair cut, which always excites me when I go to the hairdresser, because it means I actually have hair to cut again.”
No One Would Tell premieres on Lifetime on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET.