Christina Applegate Seeks Early Detection for Breast Cancer
Inspired by her own battle with cancer, the actress fights to help young women at high risk for the disease.
Breast Cancer: The Importance of Social Support
That's one reason Applegate urges all young women facing a breast cancer diagnosis to try to connect with other young women in the same boat. "You need people you can talk to, even if it's not in person, even if just on the phone, who've been there, too." When she was diagnosed, Applegate's doctors put her in touch with just such a group. Today, she calls them her "comrades in boobs."
"From day one, until now, we've been talking," she says. "They helped me through the hardest times, the nights when I'd wake up with odd pains and think it was the cancer coming back. They've been uplifting through the whole process."
She also counts herself fortunate to have the support of fiance Lenoble, a founding member of the band Porno for Pyros. "I am so lucky that he was in my life at that time," she says. "There was no way he was going to walk away from me as I went through this. For other women who might be just starting to date someone when they're diagnosed, I think you should tell them as soon as you can. It shows you the character of the man: Will he walk with you through this journey, or is it too much for him to handle? Better to weed out someone who can't be there right away."
In July, Applegate announced that she and Lenoble are expecting their first child together. (Because Applegate's cancer was caught at an early stage, she did not have to undergo chemotherapy, which can be damaging to a woman's fertility.) She hasn't revealed the due date, but "bump watchers" think it should be sometime after the New Year.
Since many breast cancers -- including Applegate's -- are the kind fed by hormones like estrogen, and pregnancy is basically one long hormone-fest, is it really safe for a woman who's recently had breast cancer to get pregnant? Surprisingly, the answer is yes. Studies show that having a baby after being successfully treated for breast cancer doesn't appear to raise your risk of the cancer's returning, and some research even indicates that pregnancy after breast cancer could have a protective effect.
"The hardest thing about pregnancy so far is the unexpected fatigue," says Applegate. But she's reveling in the anticipation of being a new mom, something she's long looked forward to. "I'm really enjoying feeling the baby kick and move!"
Applegate has one other piece of advice for young women dealing with breast cancer: Don't let cancer define you. "We all want to be activists and do all we can, but after all my interviews last year, I was like, please, can I not be Cancer Girl for a couple of months? The last thing you want to do is stew in this thing. Get out there and do other things that have nothing to do with cancer! Cancer is not who you are -- it's something you go through. My mom has always said, ‘Cancer is a word, not a sentence.'