Christina Applegate has been keeping a secret: “I’ve known for a while but it’s official. We can scream it to the heavens! One more f***kin season. Season 3 is set!”
Fans of “Dead to Me” were both thrilled and saddened to learn the new season would bring the Netflix dark comedy — which stars Applegate and partner-in-crime, Linda Cardellini — to a close.Read More
“I will miss these ladies,” Applegate tweeted. “But we felt this was the best way to tie up the story of these women. Thank you to all the fans. We will be getting back to work when it is safe to do so.”
Like Applegate, her “Dead to Me” character, Jen Harding has had a double mastectomy. The TV series actress, 48, was influential in convincing the show’s producers to weave the BRCA gene mutation — which puts women in the high-risk category for breast cancer — into her character’s backstory.
“Jen did not have cancer,” the actress told The Hollywood Reporter, “she did it [the double mastectomy] prophylactically, but the surgery itself and the aftermath of that is hard emotionally and physically. I wanted to be honest about it.”
What Is DCIS Breast Cancer?
In real life, Applegate’s breast cancer was detected in 2008 by an MRI which revealed she had Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS). Classified as stage 0 breast cancer and defined by abnormal cells lining the milk ducts in the breast, DCIS is not an invasive cancer.
Because some DCIS cancers can evolve into a more aggressive form of the disease, standard treatment includes surgery — either a lumpectomy or mastectomy — and radiation, in some instances.
Dr. Elizabeth Comen, Medical Oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center on genetic testing for breast cancer.
Applegate opted for a double mastectomy, a decision that was difficult, but allowed her to be “done with the whole thing,” she told PEOPLE at the time.
Applegate believes the MRI was the key to catching her cancer early. “An MRI saved my life,” she says. “I felt very grateful for this incredible imaging because, oftentimes, mammograms don’t show cancer until many years after it had already been growing,” she told NPR’s Terry Gross.
View this post on Instagram
Today is #spotlightsaturday I’m joining my friends with a weekly spotlight challenge And today to start off Spotlight Saturday I wanted to shine the spotlight on one amazing young woman who is a true warrior. @baldballerina Check her story out • Also I will be doing #spotlightsunday so see who or what organisation will be in the spotlight tomorrow. • #spotlightsaturday #spotlightsunday #withme #christinaapplegate #spotlightpeople #splotlightcompanies #warriors #hope #love #weekendvibes
To raise awareness of MRI screenings for women at increased risk of breast cancer, she founded Right Action for Women a nonprofit that helps offset the increased cost of MRIs.
Genetic Testing: The Breast-Ovarian Cancer Link
Because she had a family history of breast cancer, Applegate began having screening mammograms at age 30. “My mom had both breast cancer and ovarian cancer, and she’s BRCA. My cousin passed away right after my surgery from ovarian cancer; she was BRCA.
RELATED: Christina Applegate Had Her Breasts, Ovaries, and Fallopian Tubes Removed. Now She’s Up For an Emmy Award!
Your chances of getting ovarian cancer when you’re BRCA are 50%, and your chances of recurrence of breast cancer is somewhere between 75% and 80%,” she told NPR’s Fresh Air.
Dr. Michael Birrer, Senior Scientist of the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB says genetic testing helps determine a treatment plan for ovarian cancer.
She resisted the idea of genetic testing, despite her doctors’ urging. “And then it hit me one day – I didn’t want to be living in that kind of fear forever. I still get checked up all the time. But it was the right thing for me to do.”
When testing confirmed she had the BRCA1 gene mutation, Applegate decided to have her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed as well. However, in the years between her breast cancer diagnosis and her decision to remove her ovaries, she gave birth to her daughter, Sadie, in 2011.
“The chances that my daughter is BRCA positive are very high,” she told TODAY. “I’m doing everything I can on my end knowing that in 20 years, she’ll have to start getting tested,” the actress said. “Hopefully, by then, there will be advancements. It breaks my heart to think that’s a possibility.
“It’s An Amputation”
Applegate remained deliberately upbeat after going public with her breast cancer in 2008, but later realized she was denying some very real feelings about her mastectomy — feelings she conveys through her “Dead to Me” character.
“It’s an amputation. And you physically and emotionally go through so much when you lose a part of you, especially a part of you that defines you as a female.” Even reconstruction, she notes, becomes a reminder of drastic changes to her body.
She also missed the opportunity to breastfeed her infant daughter. “That was sad,” she recalls. “That experience was something that I will never be able to have. But had I not had the surgery, I wouldn’t have had a child ’cause I would not be alive. So it all kind of was OK.”