Women We Love: Christina Applegate
Posted by Mel Campbell on August 21, 2008
Breast cancer is one of those illnesses that strikes fear into my heart. Earlier this year I had a breast cancer scare that amounted to nothing; but still, my brush with ultrasounds and mammograms had me pretty damn worried. I’d be shitscared if I actually had to face down death, and lose one of the most socially and psychologically potent symbols of my femininity.
Hearing about famous women’s public breast cancer battles tends to amplify this fear we have – Crikey had an interesting piece about how the rush to cancer-screening programs, particularly among younger women, might even be counterproductive. Perhaps fear is why we often tend to read about famous breast cancer sufferers as “brave” or “courageous”. We want our boobie-cancer patients to seem unafraid, almost to reassure ourselves. But this talk of “bravery” always seems a little patronising to the cancer patient herself.
This is why I love actor Christina Applegate’s honest, no-nonsense approach to her recent diagnosis with breast cancer, and her subsequent decision to remove both her breasts – her exquisite breasts! She recently spoke about her double mastectomy in an interview on Good Morning America:
“My decision, 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 … I didn’t want to go back to the doctors every four months for testing and squishing and everything. I just wanted to kind of be rid of this whole thing for me. This was the choice that I made, and it was a tough one.”
Applegate, 36, had undergone regular breast screening since the age of 30; her mother had the disease and Applegate carries the breast cancer gene, BRCA1. She’ll undergo reconstructive surgery over the next nine months, quipping, “I’m gonna have cute boobs till I’m 90.”
Much of the commentary on Applegate’s interview has focused admiringly on her candour, her levelheadedness and her lack of vanity – Defamer contrasted her calm explanation with the hoo-ha surrounding the possible amputation of Shia LaBeouf’s pinkie finger after his DUI car crash. I also think she’s inspirational. It’s refreshing to see someone in an industry based on artifice be so frank about a human frailty without playing the “brave” card.
I also love that Applegate is setting up a program to make MRI breast scans more affordable for women whose health insurance may not cover them:
Besides me being really vigilant about it, [the MRI] is the number one reason that I’m going to live. If this had been caught a year from now, or when I was 40, I probably wouldn’t be able to live through this, or I would have to undergo such much more than I have. It’s incredibly expensive. So for me, one of the things when this all happened was that I’m putting together a program to pay for MRIs for women who are at high risk – which means women who have had it in their family, or know that they’re gene-positive. We’re also going to pay for the [genetic] testing, because that’s very, very expensive – it’s upwards of $2,000 to $3,000… so all of that is coming together right now.”