Christina Applegate has opened up about life following her multiple sclerosis diagnosis, explaining she has seen a 40lb weight gain and now struggles to walk without the support of a cane.
The Bad Moms actor, 50, originally shared news of her diagnosis in August 2021 via Twitter, but has now reflected on the difficulties the condition caused her while filming the final season of her Netflix show, Dead to Me.
The NHS says the lifelong condition, also known as MS, can affect the brain and spinal cord, causing a wide range of potential symptoms, including problems with vision, arm or leg movement, sensation or balance.
In a new interview Applegate revealed how production on the new season paused for five months following her diagnosis and she went on to share some of the impacts her illness caused when filming resumed.
"This is the first time anyone's going to see me the way I am," she told The New York Times. "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."
The Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead star also revealed how she wished she had “paid attention” more to the signs she might have the condition in the years leading up to her official diagnosis, including a tingling and numbness in her extremities.
Speaking about the period while production was halted, Applegate says it provided an opportunity for her to come to terms with her diagnosis.
“I needed to process my loss of my life, my loss of that part of me," she explains. "So I needed that time.
"Although it’s not like I came on the other side of it, like, ‘Woohoo, I’m totally fine,’” she added. “Acceptance? No. I’m never going to accept this.”
While there was some discussion about whether production should continue, the star was determined to complete the series, which features Applegate and Linda Cardellini as two grieving women who bond during therapy.
“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,’" she explains.
The actor started using a wheelchair to get to set, and for some scenes her friend Mitch B Cohn – the show’s sound technician – held up her legs.
And when she wasn't feeling up to it, she took time off.
Though her illness may not be immediately obvious on screen, Applegate says she expects some fans to not be able to “get past” how different she may appear.
“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. “I’m sure that people are going to be, like, ‘I can’t get past it.’”
“Fine, don’t get past it, then,” she continued. “But hopefully people can get past it and just enjoy the ride and say goodbye to these two girls.”
Watch: Christina Applegate Embraces Her New Normal With the Most Glamorous Walking Sticks
What is multiple sclerosis?
(MS) is a lifelong autoimmune condition that affects the brain and the spinal cord, causing a wide range of symptoms that vary from person to person.
Depending on the severity, MS can be debilitating, leading to problems with vision, balance and movement.
The MS Society estimates there are over 130,000 people with MS in the UK, and that nearly 7,000 people are newly diagnosed each year.
While it is most commonly diagnosed in people in their 20s, 30s and 40s, it can develop at any age and is more common in women than men.
As well as Christina Applegate, other celebrities living with the condition include Jack Osbourne and Selma Blair, who was diagnosed in August 2018.
Symptoms of MS
The symptoms of MS vary widely for each sufferer and can affect any part of the body.
The main symptoms include:
- difficulty walking
- vision problems, such as blurred vision
- problems controlling the bladder
- numbness or tingling in different parts of the body
- muscle stiffness and spasms
- problems with balance and co-ordination
- problems with thinking, learning and planning
If you're worried you might have signs of MS, you should see your GP.
It is important to remember, however, the symptoms often have many other causes, so they're not necessarily a sign of MS.
If your doctor suspects you could have MS, you'll be referred to a specialist in conditions of the nervous system (a neurologist).
Treatment of MS
While there is no cure for the condition, MS can be treated and managed with various treatments.
Treatment may include:
- treating relapses with short courses of steroid medicine to speed up recovery
- specific treatments for individual MS symptoms
- treatment to reduce the number of relapses using medicines called disease-modifying therapies
For more help and information
There are two main MS charities in the UK:
- MS Trust
There's also the shift.ms website, an online community for younger people affected by MS.
Dead to Me returns to Netflix on 17 November.