Actress Christina Applegate initially tried to keep her battle with breast cancer a secret.
“It’s hard to live quietly,” The Samantha Who? actress told Oprah Winfrey in 2008. “I went through five weeks of work without telling anyone that this was going on in my life.”
She couldn’t stay quiet — her treatments, and the stories of other women suffering from breast cancer — inspired her to speak out and spread awareness of the disease that affects one in eight women in the U.S. during their lifetimes.
The 36-year-old Applegate knew the importance of breast cancer screening — her mother is a breast cancer survivor. She went for regular mammograms with no problems, until 2007. That doctor visit changed her life, she said, because the doctor noticed something off-balance.
“My doctor said that the mammograms weren’t enough for me because of the denseness of my breasts,” she told Oprah. “He suggested that I get an MRI.”
So she did.
“They found some funky things going on [in one breast],” she said of her MRI. Doctors sent it off for a MRI, with bad results.
“[The doctor said], ‘It came back positive,'” she said. Luckily, the cancer was caught early and restricted to her left breast.
Applegate underwent a lumpectomy and started six months of radiation treatment. Soon after, a test showed that she was carrier of the BRCA — or breast cancer gene.
“That sort of changed everything for me,” she told Oprah. “Radiation was something temporary, and it wasn’t addressing the issue of this coming back or the chance of it coming back in my left breast. I sort of had to kind of weigh all my options at that point.”
She ultimately made the difficult decision to have a double masectomy to remove both of her breasts.
“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,” she said. “I was just going to let them go.”
Breast Cancer Activism
Applegate’s breast cancer battle inspired her to help the thousands of other women affected by the disease each year. She founded Right Action for Women, a charitable organization designed to help women of all socio-economic backgrounds receive the same kind of breast cancer screening that saved her life.
Her breast cancer awareness work doesn’t end there — she became a spokeswoman for the Lee National Denim Day and also appeared on both Stand Up 2 Cancer televised events, soliciting donations for breast cancer research on behalf of breast cancer survivors.
Applegate, now engaged to composer Martyn LeNoble and pregnant with her first child, believes her breast cancer diagnosis was a blessing in disguise.
“Not many people know that that happens to women my age or women in their 20s,” she told Oprah. “This is my opportunity now to go out and fight as hard as I can for early detection.”
Right Action for Women