Joan Lunden shaves head in cancer fight

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"I knew the minute the doctor walked in the office," Lunden told CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta in an interview. "You could just tell by her demeanor. She said you definitely have breast cancer."

(CNN) — Joan Lunden made a bold move when she posed for the cover of this week’s People magazine.

The former “Good Morning America” host appears with sparkling eyes and a broad smile, but without her trademark golden locks.

At 64, Lunden is fighting an aggressive form of breast cancer, and has shaved her head as she goes through treatment.

While she could have worn a wig for People’s photo shoot, the longtime health advocate saw an opportunity to raise awareness.

“I had to make this big decision about whether or not to do the cover with no hair,” Lunden told People. “It certainly isn’t the comfortable way to go, but I decided I was going to try and help others and show women that this isn’t the end of the world. You can go on — and that was hugely empowering.”

Lunden was diagnosed with stage 2 triple-negative breast cancer in June. While sharing the news on “Good Morning America” that month, she got some valuable advice on the ABC program from breast cancer survivor and “GMA” co-anchor Robin Roberts.

“Robin told me waiting for your hair to fall out is excruciating. So I didn’t want to wait,” Lunden said. “When it starts to go, it’s shocking, embarrassing and depressing. Pre-empt it. Get it shaved off. I did that. And I thought it was going to be like the biggest deal in the world. And you know what? I felt I didn’t have it done to me. I walked in and I said, ‘Do this.'”

After consulting with doctors, Lunden opted for an unconventional treatment plan that calls for chemotherapy — as opposed to the typical mastectomy or lumpectomy — with the goal of shrinking her tumors so surgery can be minimal.

“You have all these decisions to make, and you have to make them quickly. I had no choice but to go into warrior mode and take this head-on,” Lunden told People.

After 12 weeks of chemotherapy, Lunden learned that two tumors had shrunk by nearly 95%. She was able to bypass the second and more difficult phase of chemotherapy, and after a September 23 surgery to remove the remaining mass she’s now focusing on her recovery.

“I was handed an opportunity to learn everything that I can about this and try to help others,” she said to People, “the opportunity to turn something bad into something good. And that is the most amazing thing.”