Living with a Chronic Disease & Changing Perceptions
- The final season of “Dead to Me” premiered earlier this month. And Christina Applegate’s will to finish the show after receiving her Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis mid-filming will likely change the way people view chronic disease.
- 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.
With its season three premier earlier this month, “Dead to Me” allowed viewers to see Applegate, 51, do what she does best for the first time since her MS diagnosis.Read More
Christina Applegate Completes the Hardest Thing She’s Ever Done
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.
“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.”
Sadly, much of the last season, written prior to Applegate’s diagnosis, deals with illness. Understandably so, this proved to be an extra challenge for Applegate. With all of her physical and emotional challenges she had to overcome, Applegate told The New York Times finishing the series was the hardest thing she’d ever done.
“If people hate it, if people love it, if all they can concentrate on is, ‘Ooh, look at the cripple,’ that’s not up to me,” she said. “But hopefully people can get past it and just enjoy the ride and say goodbye to these two girls.”
What Is 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.
Living with Multiple Sclerosis
As a part of our effort to support people with chronic conditions like Multiple Sclerosis, SurvivorNetTV has added a new 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.”
Learn more about SurvivorNet's rigorous medical review process.