September 10th, 2010
10:19 AM ET
Playing a doctor on "ER" for a decade did little to prepare Maura Tierney for coping with her own real-life health scare: finding a lump on her breast.
"I was so, so scared of going to the doctor," Tierney, 45, admits in the new issue of Parade magazine. "I felt something, and my boyfriend at the time made me go. He said, 'You've got to take care of this,' because I was afraid. That's one thing I will say: Don't be afraid to go to the damn doctor. Just go!"
After being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009 and backing out of her role in the NBC show "Parenthood," Tierney refused to throw herself a pity party.
"I was so lucky. I had insurance, I found a great team of doctors at UCLA, and I could afford not to work while I was getting treated," she explains. "From the beginning my doctor told me, 'You're going to be okay,' and I chose to believe him. So there was always that in my head."
Still, it turned out that Tierney's cancer was more aggressive than they originally thought – something her pathologist would not even have noticed a decade earlier. "He said they would have patted me on the head and told me, 'You're cured,'" she tells Parade, "and I would have died of breast cancer."
The actress, who will appear on tonight's "Stand Up to Cancer" telecast, underwent surgery to remove the breast tumor and is currently being treated with medication. Now back in fighting form, Tierney will play a prosecutor in ABC's legal drama "The Whole Truth" this fall but says she's learned a valuable lesson from her journey.
"It's a life-changing thing to be in a position of needing help and being so lucky as to get it. And to feel like that's okay," she added. "You can't just take care of everybody else all the time. That's almost as perspective-changing as the illness. For someone like me, that was kind of tough."
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