Christina Applegate's Health Struggles Explained

Christina Applegate was born to be a star. Quite literally. She is as old as her screen career, which began when she was only three months: a toddler in an ad for baby bottles (via Good Morning America). From then to now, she shines in showbiz as one of its most consistent entertainers with a multitude of awards attesting to her genius. But it's been quite a ride for Applegate. And not just any ride; a total roller coaster. Since she rose to fame as a child artist in the 1980s sitcom "Married... with Children," her profession has put more than her acting life in the spotlight. Fans have marked milestones, good and bad, with Applegate through the years — and she hasn't attempted to dodge the attention, putting even the most personal parts of her life on candid display. 

In 2021, Applegate went public with her diagnosis of multiple sclerosis on Twitter, as she had previously done for her experience with insomnia and cancer, among other conditions. Though the multi-level effects of multiple sclerosis have admittedly been tough on Applegate, the funny woman hasn't lost her good humor. That's hardly surprising from someone who, following a double mastectomy, had the spirit to quip: "I'm going to have cute boobs till I'm 90" (via ABC News). For over three decades, Applegate has made people laugh, while privately withstanding curveball after curveball life threw her way off-camera. 

Christina Applegate has lived through a successful career and multiple health issues

A series of health struggles, the scope of which the world has only presumably seen a glimpse of, has run parallel to Christina Applegate's outstanding stint in television and film. Insomnia, cancer, and now multiple sclerosis have seemed to trail the actor without overshadowing her career; a design orchestrated by none other than Applegate herself. A Hollywood veteran, she is renowned for pushing through adversity. "It's about finding what I'm capable of doing," she said after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, unrelenting about the completion of her series "Dead to Me" (via Variety). And her record shows she's capable of doing a lot.

Her career took off in the 1980s, when she was a teenager — on the big screen with "Jaws of Satan" and "Beatlemania," and simultaneously on television with appearances in shows like "Charles in Charge" and "Heart of the City," before her definitive role in "Married... with Children" (via IMDb). She graduated from teenybopper nominations and awards to Emmys and Golden Globes as an adult, her roster glittering with over 50 nominations and several wins. So credible is her talent that all it took for her to clinch an Emmy was a guest role in just two episodes of the star-studded sitcom "Friends." Her health condition, however, might render "Dead to Me" her swansong. Thankfully, Applegate's immeasurable work has us well-set on entertainment for many years to come.

The actor has faced insomnia for years

A healthy sleep schedule is a luxury that Christina Applegate doesn't have. The actor has admittedly struggled with getting enough hours of sleep for years. "In my 20s and 30s, I used to never be able to fall asleep and would just stay up all night long," she told People in 2020. The mother-of-one apparently can't get more than three erratic hours of sleep each night, dozing off at around 6 a.m. Applegate has been vocal about the mental and emotional toll sleeplessness can take on an individual, urging increased conversation on the subject. To that end, she joined hands with pharmaceutical and healthcare organization Merck to encourage awareness about living with insomnia, saying she is "willing to experiment with different things to find a solution that works best" for her (via Merck). 

Seven hours of sleep is stated as the standard for adults, with the nonprofit Sleep Foundation observing that women actually need more sleep than men. Women are reportedly 40% more prone to insomnia, along with a number of health and hormonal factors affecting their circadian rhythms. "Some of the nights could be real rough," Applegate has testified (via Self). In trying to inculcate better sleep hygiene, Applegate practices sleep meditation.

She was diagnosed with cancer at 36

In 2008, Christina Applegate was up for a smattering of nominations, including an Emmy, for her lead role in the comedy series "Samantha Who?" But it wasn't all sunshine and roses for the veteran actor, who was diagnosed with cancer the same year at age 36. Applegate had seemingly anticipated such an event and begun screening programs at 30, given that her mother Nancy Priddy is a cancer survivor twice over (per the National Breast Cancer Foundation). Her anatomy rendered mammograms somewhat insufficient and she was advised to get an MRI instead. The medical results turned up what she said was "funky" stuff happening in her left breast. Priddy was with her when Applegate received a positive diagnosis of breast cancer. "I lay in her lap and just screamed and screamed," the actor later recalled (per Women's Health).

The cancer hadn't spread and had fortunately been detected early. Applegate's temperament urged her to begin treatments immediately — "I'm a Sagittarius," she simply explained to Oprah Winfrey in an interview that year. Though it was "hard to live quietly," she said, Applegate kept her diagnosis private and continued work as usual. She gave some credit to luck but has continually attributed her survival to timely, routine testing that helped with early detection. Though it was a time of emotional upheaval for her, Applegate revealed later that year that she was cancer free (per ABC News). "I'm definitely not going to die from breast cancer," she said. 

She underwent a double mastectomy

Christina Applegate's cancer diagnosis brought with it some tough decisions. She could either keep frequenting the doctor's every few months for treatment or end the suffering once and for all. She chose the latter. When Applegate's test results came back positive for breast cancer in 2008, the disease was detected in the left breast only. Owing to her family history of cancer, Applegate ensured that no check posts were left unguarded. The cancer diagnosis was followed by a second positive test, this time for a BRCA mutation. As noted by the American Cancer Society, BRCA gene mutations are one of the foremost risk factors for cancer that is hereditary. A mastectomy was advised, only to be rebuffed by Applegate, who was 36 at the time.  

"I cried and said there's no way in hell I'm doing this," she revealed (via WebMD). Eventually, she came around after weighing her choices. "I had a chance of recurrence that was way above 50%," which prompted her to undergo a double mastectomy. The funny woman bade her natural assets a glorious farewell with her first nude photoshoot (via Oprah). The preventive surgery was succeeded by a breast reconstruction surgery: "I've never had a year where I got hit hard that much," she told Women's Health. Applegate's personal battles were given special airtime on her hit show "Dead to Me," which showed her character Jen undergo a similar procedure — an idea pitched by Applegate herself (via The Hollywood Reporter). 

The mother-of-one had to get her ovaries removed

Undergoing a double mastectomy didn't spell the end of cancer for Christina Applegate. The "Anchorman" star, who survived breast cancer in 2008, successfully prevented the malignant disease from spreading the first time around, thanks to vigilant testing. But she wasn't taking chances anymore. So in 2017, she went ahead and got her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed. "My cousin passed away from ovarian cancer in 2008. I could prevent that. That's how I've taken control of everything," she told Today. Applegate's mother is also a two-time cancer survivor, which helped her remain cautious about her health from a young age. When her test for BRCA mutations turned up positive, putting her at a higher risk for breast and ovarian cancer, she knew not to take it lightly.

"Do I want to be having this hanging over my head for the rest of my life?" she asked herself (via NPR). Deciding against living in fear of confronting the disease again, she took steps to counter it. The awareness of her only child Sadie Grace LeNoble being at risk of the BRCA gene mutation drives Applegate to be extra prudent about her family's lifestyle, keeping stress levels and eating habits in check. "Breathe deeper," she advises herself (via Today).

The onset of menopause was early for her

The risk of cancer ushered in major changes for Christina Applegate. One of these was the early onset of menopause. The "Married... with Children" actor underwent surgery to get her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed in 2017, on account of carrying a BCRA mutation that put her at increased risk of ovarian cancer. An oophorectomy, the process by which ovaries are removed, induces surgical menopause due to the source of estrogen production being cut off (per Healthline). So while the preventive operation assured some respite from disease for Applegate, it also heralded menopause. The Broadway star didn't shy away from sharing her health update in public, emphasizing the need for frankness on the subject (via People): "Let's talk about what that's like at 40-something, to be going through that, and know that you're not alone." 

In fact, the experience of early menopause hasn't deterred the comedy veteran from jesting about it. During a soul-stirring interview with Variety, she quipped: "Sorry, I'm crying so much, but I have my period! Just kidding — I've been in menopause for four years, so I'm good!" Her Emmy-nominated series "Dead to Me" has been at the forefront of representation of health issues borrowed from Applegate's life, from cancer to menopause. The latter was part of lead character Judy's story arc, with portraying actor Linda Cardellini noting: "Being on a show [created] by women gives you the opportunity to address things that should be addressed" (via Parade).

She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis while filming Dead to Me

2021 brought yet another diagnosis for Christina Applegate — this one, more significantly life-altering than its predecessors. While filming the final season of her critically-acclaimed dark comedy "Dead to Me," Applegate found out she had multiple sclerosis. "I wish I had paid attention. But who was I to know?" she ruminated (via The New York Times). Mild symptoms of the autoimmune disease had apparently been showing up for a couple of years before the diagnosis but couldn't be identified. That's not unusual for this particular condition, according to Dr. Nora Lansen who explains that the difficulty of pinpointing symptoms of multiple sclerosis arises from their varying nature from person to person (via Healthline). To add to it, "there is no single test that can provide a definitive diagnosis."

Applegate's health update prompted a pause in the show's filming but the lead actor was determined to see the project through to the end. Incidentally, the final season of the series contains themes of illness, which made filming that much more emotional for Applegate. Playing Jen Harding, while living with a chronic disease that triggers physical dysfunction, involved "making the most out of my sh*t situation that I used humor to kind of keep my wall up," the Golden Globe-nominated star said (via Variety). Personally sharing the diagnosis with fans, Applegate tweeted that her journey so far had been strange and tough: "But as we all know, the road keeps going." 

It's difficult for her to walk without a cane

Christina Applegate's multiple sclerosis diagnosis set in motion a string of physical changes. It started with the actor losing balance, an early manifestation of the chronic condition, leading up to the actor needing assistive tools for mobility. "I put on 40 pounds; I can't walk without a cane," she told The New York Times in 2022, a year after first receiving news that the incurable disease was affecting her. Multiple sclerosis causes nerve damage, which provokes the progression of weakened muscles and coordination that can impact movement (per Medical News Today) — something that required introducing innovations to the way Applegate's show "Dead to Me" was shot following her diagnosis. For instance, an off-camera crew member had to support the actor's legs during certain scenes. 

As revealed to Variety, Applegate would roll into set on a wheelchair and there were days that she called in saying: "Guys, I can't get down the stairs." But when she made it to the shoot, Applegate ensured that humor was never in short supply — even if that involved hitting people with her cane! In November 2022, the veteran actor received a long-deserved star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She showed up for the ceremony barefoot, with her cane, and nail art that flipped off multiple sclerosis (via Page Six). Somewhere in her tearjerking speech, Applegate managed to slip in a crack: "Oh, by the way, I have a disease. Did you not notice?" 

Christina Applegate's mantra is to live positively

In living with insomnia to multiple sclerosis and everything in between, Christina Applegate has battled more than her share of challenges. But in trademark Applegate humor, the Emmy-winning star rows through the storm with tenacious positivity. "I do not have the luxury of negative thought! Not when I need to make the impossible oh-so-possible," she is quoted saying in Katie Couric's "The Best Advice I Ever Got." It's a mantra that has kept Applegate afloat during trying times, whether it's a broken foot or cancer. Sure, there have been times when self-pity has been an outlet for her emotions. "Sometimes, you know, I cry. And sometimes I scream. And I get really angry," she revealed (via ABC News) — but in the end, she abides.

When Applegate was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, the creators of "Dead to Me" were ready to halt production for the sake of their lead star. It was Applegate who was adamant that the show go on: "It had to be told, for us, and, of course, for our audience," she told Variety. And like a good comedian who can't ignore the calling of a delicious punchline, she didn't miss a beat in joking about the irony of her "Walk" of Fame star! On her 50th birthday, she sent out an encouraging message into the world — but obviously not without a witticism: "May we find that strength to lift our heads up. Mine currently is on my pillow."