Inspiring MS Warriors
- Christina Applegate is currently battling Multiple Sclerosis, and the beloved actress recently shared that she struggled to watch the last season of her hit show “Dead to Me” because she didn’t like to see herself struggle. After her diagnosis in 2021, she gained 40 pounds due to inactivity and her medications.
- Multiple Sclerosis, or MS, is a potentially disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system), according to the Mayo Clinic. Most people with MS go through periods of new symptoms or relapses followed by quiet periods of disease remission.
- SurvivorNetTV has added a new block of programming specific to Multiple Sclerosis in order to support people living with this chronic condition. We hope it can be a source of inspiration.
The 51-year-old actress was in the middle of filming the last season of Netflix’s acclaimed series “Dead To Me,” when she received her MS diagnosis in 2021. In a previous conversation with The New York Times, Applegate said finishing the series after her diagnosis was the hardest thing she’d ever done given her emotional struggles and physical limitations.Read More
And people did enjoy the ride. In fact, her portrayal of Jen Harding earned her a number of award nominations – including her sixth-ever SAG nomination for outstanding performance by a female actor in a comedy series which Applegates guesses will be her last as she continues to live with MS.
“It’s my last awards show as an actor probably, so it’s kind of a big deal,” she said in her most recent interview with the Los Angeles Times. “Right now, I couldn’t imagine getting up at 5 a.m. and spending 12 to 14 hours on a set; I don’t have that in me at this moment.”
Although she has a lot to be proud of, Applegate struggled to watch what very well could be her final piece of work as an actress. The Los Angeles Times reports it took her months to actually view the final season.
“I don’t like seeing myself struggling,” she said. “Also, I gained 40 pounds because of inactivity and medications, and I didn’t look like myself, and I didn’t feel like myself.”
Applegate explained that she watched the show alone and gave herself breaks when she needed them, emotionally.
“At some point I was able to distance myself from my own ego, and realize what a beautiful piece of television it was,” she said. “All the scenes I wasn’t in were so much fun to see and experience for the very first time.”
Christina Applegate’s MS Journey
Christina Applegate began experiencing symptoms of the condition long before she had answers. In fact, she said she felt off balance during a dance sequence that occurred way back in season one of the dark comedy. She later noticed her aptitude for tennis start to fail.
“I wish I had paid attention,” she told The New York Times. “But who was I to know?”
It took several years of worsening tingling and numbness in her extremities before her diagnosis arrived while on set. This life-altering realization wouldn’t stop Applegate from finishing her portrayal of Jen Harding, but she did need a break. Production of the final season ceased for about five months as she began treatment.
“There was the sense of, ‘Well, let’s get her some medicine so she can get better,’” Applegate said. “And there is no better. But it was good for me. I needed to process my loss of my life, my loss of that part of me. So I needed that time.”
Applegate admits she’ll never fully “accept” her condition, but she did learn how to work with it. And she’s previously talked about how the show was a cathartic outlet and safe space.
“I had an obligation to Liz [Feldman] and to Linda [Cardellini], to our story,” she said of the show’s writer and co-star respectively. “The powers that be were like, ‘Let’s just stop. We don’t need to finish it. Let’s put a few episodes together.’ I said, ‘No. We’re going to do it, but we’re going to do it on my terms.’”
Applegate wasn’t able to work as hard or as long or in heat without her body giving out, but she found pride in her self-sufficiency. And with the help of some adjustments in blocking, she powered through. Nicole Vassell, a writer for the The Independent, says other programs should learn from the way Applegate’s “physical changes [were] seamlessly incorporated into the show.”
“This is the first time anyone’s going to see me the way I am,” Applegate said. “I put on 40 pounds; I can’t walk without a cane. I want people to know that I am very aware of all of that.”
Thankfully, she also had loads of support coming from people like Cardellini along the way. In her most recent interview with the Los Angeles Times, she opened up about how helpful Cardellini was in helping her through such a tough time of transition.
“She literally pulled me under her wing and protected me, and took care of me every single day,” Applegate said. “Also the tables were turned: Jen is taking care of her friend who’s dying, yet Linda [Cardellini’s character] was taking care of me as I was saying goodbye to the person that I’d always known — so part of me was dying.”
Understanding Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple Sclerosis, or MS, is a potentially disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system), according to the Mayo Clinic.
It causes the immune system to attack the protective sheath (myelin) that covers nerve fibers which leads to communication problems between your brain and the rest of your body. Eventually, MS can cause permanent damage or deterioration of the nerves.
Signs and symptoms of MS can vary widely but may include:
- Numbness or weakness in one or more limbs that typically occurs on one side of your body at a time, or your legs and trunk
- Electric-shock sensations that occur with certain neck movements, especially bending the neck forward (Lhermitte sign)
- Tremor, lack of coordination or unsteady gait
- Partial or complete loss of vision, usually in one eye at a time, often with pain during eye movement
- Prolonged double vision
- Blurry vision
- Slurred speech
- Tingling or pain in parts of your body
- Problems with sexual, bowel and bladder function
Most people with MS go through periods of new symptoms or relapses followed by quiet periods of disease remission. These relapses can develop over days or weeks and the remission periods can last for months or even years.
More Inspiration for MS Warriors
As a part of our effort to support people with chronic conditions like Multiple Sclerosis, SurvivorNetTV has added a block of programming specific to MS. It is our hope that these films inspire the nearly 1 million people living with MS in the United States.
RELATED: Check Out SurvivorNetTV’s Multiple Sclerosis Programming
SurvivorNetTV’s film Defying All Odds, for example, follows the story of Dr. Terry Wahls – a world-renowned doctor and scientist determined to continue practicing medicine even after being diagnosed with a severe form of multiple sclerosis (MS).
SurvivorNetTV Presents: Defying All Odds — A World-Renowned Doctor’s Incredible Journey Through MS
Another film, Don’t Stop Me Now, takes a look at MS warrior Louise Carr’s inspiring battle against the disease that causes her daily pain, fatigue, memory loss and restricted movement.
“I might have MS, but it doesn’t have me,” she tells SurvivorNet.
‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ Is Inspiration for Anybody With Multiple Sclerosis
To help with her symptoms, Carr tried switching to a vegan diet, taking on yoga and Zumba classes as well as riding a recumbent bike.
“To my absolute astonishment within a week of becoming vegan my energy levels absolutely shot up,” she said. “It’s changed my life.”
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