In the latest episode of Charmed rewatch podcast The House of Halliwell, Holly Marie Combs recalls the support she received from co-stars Shannen Doherty and Alyssa Milano during an incredibly difficult time.
While discussing “The Power of Two,” an episode from Season 1 that originally aired in May 1999, Combs shares the extremely personal story behind her character’s noticeable absence for most of the hour.
“They had found a rather large tumor in my uterus during this season, and it kept growing at a rate that was not healthy,” the actress, who played middle witch sister Piper, says. “They were afraid that it was cancer, so we needed to have it removed.” As Combs later recalls, “Alyssa would stare at me through the car window and say, ‘It’s not cancer. It’s not cancer.'” Fortunately, she was right.
Production shut down for two weeks while Combs recovered from surgery, during which time her TV sisters were never more than an orb away.
“We got very close, all of us, during this time,” she says. “Shannen would leave my hospital room, and Alyssa and her mom would come in. When I went home, Alyssa’s mom had made me chicken soup and food for the week because it was a really major surgery. The girls really pulled together during this time for me.”
According to Combs, her tumor was “the size of a baseball” after being removed. One detail she can’t remember, however, is why Milano chose to name the tumor Jonathan.
Combs eventually returned to film Piper’s scenes for the episode, most of which involved her sitting because “walking was not fun at that point.”
If you’re wondering why you’ve never heard this story before, Combs explains, “I don’t advertise it a lot. I’m very protective of the show and my part in it, but I’m also very protective of the moments that we had like this. No one has any idea how much both Shannen and Alyssa did for me during this time. That’s the s–t that really bugs me. No one has any idea how much we went through behind the scenes, and how much we did together, and how close we were. Alyssa was in my hospital bed with me. I was like, ‘You’re on my catheter, kid, you’ve got to get off.'”
New episodes of The House of Halliwell — hosted by Combs, Brian Krause (aka Leo) and Drew Fuller (Chris) — drop every Wednesday on Apple Music and Spotify.