She was a staunch advocate of breast cancer awareness for years, moved by her beloved mother’s fight with cancer. In 2008, Christina Applegate found herself facing her own breast cancer diagnosis.
Making a decision that some find controversial yet many find brave, Applegate opted for a double mastectomy. Although the cancer was found in only one breast, genetics are against her: Her mother is a breast cancer survivor who suffered a recurrence and she carries the gene BRCA1, the breast cancer gene.
“After looking at all the treatment plans that were possibilities for me, the only one that seemed the most logical and the one that was going to work for me was to have a bilateral mastectomy," Applegate, 36, told Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts, also a breast cancer survivor. “This was a choice I made and it was a tough one.”
Within a few short weeks of her surgery, she sat down for a number of important interviews, appeared on the “Stand Up To Cancer” benefit, and launched a foundation to help other women. Applegate is nominated as one of Beliefnet's Most Inspiring People of the Year for her courage in facing her own cancer and her devotion to bringing awareness to a disease that claims 465,000 lives each year.
"This is my opportunity now to go out and fight as hard as I can for early detection," she said on The Oprah Winfrey Show. She later appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and said,“If I can just save one person… that’s why I am doing this.”
Applegate's cancer was detected through a breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test that can detect cancer cells before they form a tumor. MRIs are expensive, and not always covered by health insurance, so Applegate started a foundation, Right Action for Women (the Christina Applegate Foundation), to help women at high risk for breast cancer access and pay for the expensive test.
While recovering from her surgery, Applegate made roses from the ribbons attached to the flowers people sent her in the hospital. The roses – hundreds of them – will be auctioned off to benefit Right Action for Women.
But even before her personal battle began, she was on the front lines of breast cancer awareness advocacy, inspired by her mother, the singer Nancy Priddy, who successfully battled the disease when Applegate was a child.
After her own surgery, doctors declared Applegate cancer free. She did not require chemotherapy or radiation and is preparing for reconstructive surgery. "I'm going to face challenges, but you can't get any darker than where I've been," she told Roberts on Good Morning America. "So, just knowing that in my soul gave me the strength to just say, 'I've got to -- I have to get out there and -- and make this positive."
She returned to work on her hit television series, “Samantha Who,” and was even nominated for an Emmy.
"[There's] this need and this desire to make every single day count," she told Winfrey. "I used to say … 'Don't sweat the small stuff—not even the big stuff.' At the end of the day, none of it matters but your own joy, your own spiritual journey that you go on, God, your loved ones, your friends, your animals. These are the things you've got to cherish and love and embrace."