One morning in 2012,
“I was walking around my neighborhood in Los Angeles and I suddenly got so tired,” says the actress best known for playing Natalie Green in the ’80s sitcom The Facts of Life. “I just couldn’t go anymore. This was before Uber was really a thing, so I texted my friend
Cohn went to the doctor, and a scan showed something in her breast. Before she knew it, she was being biopsied. The news was devastating. “It was breast cancer,” she tells PEOPLE. “I kept that secret for a long time.”
For the next five years, Cohn, now 51, underwent what she now calls a “siege.” She ultimately underwent a double mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation.
Before the diagnosis, Cohn had always been the rock-steady center of her circle of friends. The five-year ordeal drained her, however. “I’ve always been an optimist,” she says. “But the cancer metastasized. It kept spreading and coming back. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, and then it would. And then I’d wait for another shoe to drop, and it would. I was frustrated and enraged. I couldn’t control any of this. I couldn’t fix it.”
Cohn had always kept busy since doing The Facts of Life (In addition to multiple on-camera roles, she did the voice of Velma on the rebooted What’s New, Scooby-Doo for more than a decade), After her diagnosis, she stepped away from Hollywood to recuperate.
Cohn found refuge with her close friends,
Today, Cohn is cancer free – and back in Hollywood. She’s become more active on her
For more about Cohn’s battle, pick up the latest copy of PEOPLE, on stands Friday