'Facts of Life' actress Mindy Cohn reveals secret 5-year breast cancer battle

"Facts of Life" actress Mindy Cohn revealed that she secretly battled breast cancer for five years.

Talking exclusively to People, Cohn, 51, opened up about her 2012 diagnosis with breast cancer and the five years since, during which she took a step back from Hollywood to focus on battling the cancer.

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Cohn remembered that she was on a walk in Los Angeles when she "suddenly got so tired," and texted actress and friend Helen Hunt for help. A trip to the hospital revealed that that she had a lump in her breast.

"It was breast cancer," she told People. "I kept that secret for a long time."

See photos of Mindy Cohn:

43 PHOTOS
'Facts of Life' star Mindy Cohn
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'Facts of Life' star Mindy Cohn
THE FACTS OF LIFE -- 'Flash Flood' Episode 9 -- Aired: 5/2/80 -- Pictured: Mindy Cohn as Natalie Green (Photo by Paul Drinkwater/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THE FACTS OF LIFE -- Pictured: (clockwise from top left) Nancy McKeon as Joanna 'Jo' Marie Polniaczek Bonner, Lisa Whelchel as Blair Warner, Mindy Cohn as Natalie Letisha Sage Green, Kim Fields as Dorothy 'Tootie' Ramsey (center) Charlotte Rae as Mrs. Edna Ann Garrett (Photo by Herb Ball/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THE FACTS OF LIFE -- Season 1 -- Pictured: Mindy Cohn as Natalie Letisha Sage Green (Photo by NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THE FACTS OF LIFE -- Season 1 -- Pictured: (l-r) Mindy Cohn as Natalie Letisha Sage Green, Kim Fields as Dorothy 'Tootie' Ramsey (Photo by NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THE FACTS OF LIFE -- Pictured: (clockwise from left) George Clooney as George Burnett, Nancy McKeon as Joanna 'Jo' Marie Polniaczek Bonner, Mackenzie Astin as Andy Moffet Stickle, Lisa Whelchel as Blair Warner, Kim Fields as Dorothy 'Tootie' Ramsey, Mindy Cohn as Natalie Letisha Sage Green (center) Cloris Leachman as Beverly Ann Stickle -- Photo by: NBCU Photo Bank
THE FACTS OF LIFE -- 'Something in Common' Episode 13 -- Pictured: Mindy Cohn as Natalie Green -- Photo by: Alice S. Hall/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank
FACTS OF LIFE -- Season 2 -- Pictured: (l-r) Charlotte Rae as Mrs. Edna Ann Garrett, Mindy Cohn as Natalie Letisha Sage Green (Photo by Herb Ball/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THE FACTS OF LIFE -- Season 2 -- Pictured: Mindy Cohn as Natalie Letisha Sage Green (Photo by Herb Ball/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THE FACTS OF LIFE -- 'Fear Strikes Back' Episode 2 -- Pictured: (l-r) Mindy Cohn as Natalie Letisha Sage Green, Charlotte Rae as Mrs. Edna Ann Garrett -- Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank
THE FACTS OF LIFE -- 'From Russia with Love' Episode 8 -- Pictured: (l-r) Charlotte Rae as Edna Garrett, Molly Picon as Grandma Mona, Mindy Cohn as Natalie Green (Photo by Paul Drinkwater/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THE FACTS OF LIFE -- Season 4 -- Pictured: Mindy Cohn as Natalie Green -- Photo by: Herb Ball/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 16: Ryan Cassidy and Mindy Cohn attend NBC TV Affiliates Party on May 16, 1983 at the La Brea Tar Pits Museum in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
THE FACTS OF LIFE -- 'My Boyfriend's Back' Episode 4 -- Pictured: (l-r) Charolette Rae as Edna Garrett, Lisa Whelchel as Blair Warner, Mindy Cohn as Natalie Green (Photo by NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THE FACTS OF LIFE -- Season 7 -- Pictured: (l-r) Kim Fields as Dorothy 'Tootie' Ramsey, Nancy McKeon as Joanne 'Jo' Polniaczek, Charlotte Rae as Edna Garrett, Mindy Cohn as Natalie Green, Lisa Whelchel as Blair Warner (Photo by Ron Tom/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THE FACTS OF LIFE -- Gallery -- Pictured: Mindy Cohn as Natalie Letisha Sage Green (Photo by Ron Tom/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - DECEMBER 10: Actresses Mindy Cohn and Kim Fields attend the premiere of 'Three Amigos' on December 10, 1986 at the Academy Theater in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
THE FACTS OF LIFE -- Season 8 -- Pictured: (l-r) Mindy Cohn as Natalie Letisha Sage Green, Scott Valentine, Kim Fields as Dorothy 'Tootie' Ramsey -- Photo by: Gary Null/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank
THE FACTS OF LIFE Down Under -- Pictured: (clockise from left) Kim Fields as Dorothy 'Tootie' Ramsey, Mindy Cohn as Natalie Letisha Sage Green, Mackenzie Astin as Andy Moffet Stickle -- Photo by: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank
THE FACTS OF LIFE -- '62 Pick Up' Episode 18 -- Pictured: (l-r) Lisa Whelchel as Blair Warner/Pinkie, Mindy Cohn as Natalie Letisha Sage Green/Frenchie, Nancy McKeon as Joanna 'Jo' Marie Polniaczek Bonner/Frizzo, Kim Fields as Dorothy 'Tootie' Ramsey/Dee Dee -- Photo by: Chris Haston/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank
Mindy Cohn and Carol Alt (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
Mindy Cohn and Cloris Leachman during 'Joy Ride: The True Story of Grandma Moses' Los Angeles Premiere in Westwood, California, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - SEPTEMBER 10: Mindy Cohn attends National Multiple Sclerosis Society Gala Honoring Keith Barish on September 10, 1996 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
CENTURY CITY, CA - JUNE 2: Actresses Kim Fields and Mindy Cohn attend NBC TV Affiliates Party on June 2, 1987 at the Century Plaza Hotel in Century City, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Mindy Cohn at the Chaz Dean Studio in Los Angeles, California (Photo by Amy Graves/WireImage)
Susan Egan and Mindy Cohn (Photo by Mark Sullivan/WireImage)
Chaz Dean and Mindy Cohn during KARI FEINSTEIN PR Presents STYLE LOUNGE Benefiting Project Angel Food - Day 1 at Chaz Dean Studio in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by Rebecca Sapp/WireImage for Kari Feinstein PR)
Mindy Cohn during 'Valley of the Dolls' Reading and DVD Debut - Arrivals at Renberg Theatre in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by Todd Williamson/FilmMagic)
Mindy Cohn and James Haven (Photo by Matthew Simmons/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 14: Actress Mindy Cohn attends the Legendary Bingo 10th Anniversary at the Hamburger Mary's on May 14, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Valerie Macon/Getty Images)
Actress Mindy Cohn arrives at the 10th Annual Legendary Bingo Night to benefit Hot in Hollywood held at Hamburger Mary's on May 14, 2008 in West Hollywood, California.
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 10: Actress Mindy Cohn attends the 9th Annual TV Land Awards at the Javits Center on April 10, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/FilmMagic)
The cast of 'The Facts Of Life' (L-R) Mindy Cohn, Kim Fields, Charlotte Rae, Geri Jewell, Lisa Whelchel, Nancy McKeon and Cloris Leachman accept the Pop Culture Award onstage at the 9th Annual TV Land Awards at the Javits Center on April 10, 2011 in New York City.
THE SECRET LIFE OF THE AMERICAN TEENAGER - 'Defiance' - Amy and Ricky argue about her decision to attend summer school and keep an eye on his troublesome new foster brother, Ethan. Ben and his new girlfriend Dylan become increasingly desperate to see each other after being forbidden to do so, and Ben continues to reel from Henry's recent betrayal. And Grace struggles with defying her mother's expectations of her, while Adrian revels in a new happier romance, on an all new episode of 'The Secret Life of the American Teenager,' premiering on Monday, April 2 (8:00 - 9:00 PM ET/PT). (Photo by Randy Holmes/ABC Family via Getty Images) MINDY COHN
WATCH WHAT HAPPENS LIVE -- Episode 690 -- Pictured: (l-r) Mindy Cohn, Andy Cohen, Kim Fields -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
BRENTWOOD, CA - APRIL 04: Actress Mindy Cohn attends the opening of Tracy Anderson Flagship Studio on April 4, 2013 in Brentwood, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 09: Actress Mindy Cohn attends Nat Geo's 'The 80's: The Decade That Made Us' New York Premiere at Culture Club on April 9, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 16: Actress Mindy Cohn during Celebrity Autobiography: The Music Edition Volume 4 at The GRAMMY Museum on April 16, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Mark Sullivan/WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - SEPTEMBER 15: Actress Mindy Cohn attends The Paley Center for Media's PaleyFest 2014 Fall TV Preview - 'The Facts of Life' 35th Anniversary Reunion at The Paley Center for Media on September 15, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - AUGUST 22: Mindy Cohn attends Heifer International's 3rd Annual 'Beyond Hunger: A Place At The Table' Gala at Montage Beverly Hills on August 22, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Araya Diaz/WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - SEPTEMBER 18: Actress Mindy Cohn attends Heifer International�s 4th Annual Beyond Hunger Gala at the Montage on September 18, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. Heifer International works to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth. . (Photo by Angela Weiss/Getty Images for Heifer International)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 19: Editorial Director of Paper Magazine Mr. Mickey and actress Mindy Cohn attend Dinner with Bevy Smith, STARZ 'Power' Dinner with principal cast of 'Power' and NYC VIPS at Omar's on May 19, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew Toth/Getty Images for STARZ)
UNIVERSAL CITY, CA - OCTOBER 01: Mindy Cohn attends 'Beyond Hunger: West Meets East' brought to you by NBC Universal and Heifer International at NBC Universal Lot on October 1, 2017 in Universal City, California. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for Heifer International )
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Cohn ultimately underwent a double mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation -- an onslaught of procedures that she called a "siege."

"The cancer metastasized," she continued. "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."

Though she couldn't "fix it," Cohn did have an outlet that helped her recuperate: Her friends' 60-acre farm outside of Sharon Spring, New York, which gave her a calming environment to recover in.

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Now that she's cancer free, Cohn is excited to get back to acting.

"I'm feeling great," she said. "And I'm so ready to get back to working. I think I'm a good actress, and I have a lot to offer. I'm excited to see what I get to do next!"

Mindy Cohn played Natalie Green on "The Facts of Life" for nine seasons from 1979 to 1988, an incredible run of 202 episodes. She's also known for voicing Velma Dinkley on a handful of long-running "Scooby Doo!" projects.

RELATED: Celebrities who have battled breast cancer:

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10 celebrities get real about breast cancer
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10 celebrities get real about breast cancer

Julia Louis-Dreyfus

The 56-year-old was most recently diagnosed with breast cancer soon after the 2017 Emmy Awards. She confirmed the diagnosis on Instagram, quickly calling attention to the plight of other women who don't have health care. 

"1 in 8 women get breast cancer. Today, I'm the one. The good news is that I have the most glorious group of supportive and caring family and friends, and fantastic insurance through my union. The bad news is that not all women are so lucky, so let's fight all cancers and make universal health care a reality," she wrote in the post

Angelina Jolie 

In 2013, at age 37, the actress wrote a New York Times piece about her experiences with breast cancer and the BRCA1 gene. She had an 87% risk of breast cancer, 50% risk of ovarian cancer, so she took preventative action, including a double mastectomy and the later removal of her ovaries and fallopian tubes.

"Once I knew that this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much I could. I made a decision to have a preventive double mastectomy. I started with the breasts, as my risk of breast cancer is higher than my risk of ovarian cancer, and the surgery is more complex," she wrote.

Continuing in the New York Times, But I am writing about it now because I hope that other women can benefit from my experience. Cancer is still a word that strikes fear into people’s hearts, producing a deep sense of powerlessness. But today it is possible to find out through a blood test whether you are highly susceptible to breast and ovarian cancer, and then take action.

  

Cynthia Nixon

At 40, the acclaimed actress was diagnosed with breast cancer after a routine mammogram in 2006. She decided to keep it private for a year after her diagnosis. 

At age 12, Nixon watched her mother battle breast cancer and knew the importance of preventative care. 

"I’ve learned that if you catch breast cancer early, the chances are overwhelmingly good that you’ll be cured. So my attitude, which very much mirrored my mother’s, was this wasn’t a big deal," the star said, according to Marie Claire

Giuliana Rancic 

In 2011, after the diagnosis of an early-stage tumor, the host underwent a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery.

She said to Glamour: "....My doctor said, "We have great news in one breast and bad news in the other. You need to start thinking about a mastectomy." That had been the furthest thing from my mind. I knew nothing about breast cancer before this happened to me, and I thought mastectomy meant stage three or four cancer. I didn't have a big family history of it. I just never thought it would happen to me. I really didn't."

Shannen Doherty

The former "Beverly Hills, 90210" star was diagnosed in 2015 and regularly documented her battle on social media. After going through chemotherapy, she announced she's in remission in April 2017. 

"Moments. They happen. Today was and is a moment. What does remission mean? I heard that word and have no idea how to react. Good news? YES. Overwhelming. YES. Now more waiting. As every single one of my fellow cancer family knows, the next five years is crucial. Reoccurrences happen all the time," she shared on social media

Sheryl Crow

In 2006, the singer publicly announced she was battling the disease after she underwent "minimally invasive surgery." 

"I am inspired by the brave women who have faced this battle before me and grateful for the support of family and friends," she said according to ABC News

Olivia Newton-John

In 2017, the 68-year-old singer and actress revealed she was once again battling breast cancer. After her first diagnosis in 1992, she underwent a partial mastectomy as well as chemo. 

"I am really grateful for and touched by the worldwide outpouring of love and concern. Thank you. I am feeling good and enjoying total support from my family and friends, along with a team of wellness and medical practitioners both here in the US and at my Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre in Melbourne, Australia. I’m totally confident that my new journey will have a positive success story to inspire others!” she said exclusively to People in June

Melissa Etheridge

Because of the singer's family history, Etheridge was "vigilant" about examinations before eventually being diagnosed in 2004. 

"I am the healthiest I have ever been in my life. It excites me every day when I can wake up and feel energy and feel good and feel purpose. The changes I made were big and not easy. Sugar is a drug, incredibly addictive. That one change can make a huge difference in your life," she said to ABC News in 2015

Christina Applegate

At 36 years old, the actress was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. After biopsies and a lumpectomy, as well as radiation, she tested positive for the BRCA gene.

Later, she underwent a double mastectomy. "It came on really fast. It was one of those things that I woke up and it felt so right," she says. "It just seemed like, 'I don't want to have to deal with this again. I don't want to keep putting that stuff in my body. I just want to be done with this.' & I was just going to let them go," she said according to CNN.

Rita Wilson

In 2015, it became known that the actress was battling breast cancer and underwent both a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. 

Since then, she's been outspoken about encouraging others to be vigilant about routine checks.

"Last week, with my husband by my side, and with the love and support of family and friends, I underwent a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction for breast cancer after a diagnosis of invasive lobular carcinoma. I am recovering and most importantly, expected to make a full recovery. Why? Because I caught this early, have excellent doctors and because I got a second opinion," she said according to People

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