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Speaking on the challenges of living with MS

By Matt Cavallo

When I was a teenager in the late ’80s and early ’90s, Fox Sunday night was must-see TV for me. There were two shows that I made sure to catch each Sunday night, The Simpsons and Married with Children. My mother banned me from watching both of those shows because of the content, but I would sneak off to watch them with the volume turned down really low so as to not be caught. 

While I watched both shows for their comedic value, I, like most boys around that time, had a crush on Kelly Bundy played by Christina Applegate. Never did I ever imagine back then that 30 years later, Christina Applegate would become must-see TV again, this time speaking for all of us. Christina made headlines in November while promoting season three of her hit Netflix show, Dead to Me. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2021 which resulted in the filming of season three being shut down for five months due to complications related to her MS. What makes her voice so important right now is she is speaking for all of us living with MS and she is speaking the truth.

In this three-minute program item about the actress on Good Morning America, you learn how the cast and crew helped her get through filming despite the challenges of MS. We learn details about how one of crew members had to lay on the floor behind her and hold her legs so she could stand steady while filming. Linda Cardellini, Christina’s Dead to Me costar and friend, would act like a “momma bear” on the set calling for breaks to make sure Christina was well cared for and that she wasn’t pushing herself too hard. 

Christina has been an actress her whole life, but filming with MS presented new challenges. She couldn’t work as long or as hard. She was also affected by the heat. During filming, she had trouble with stairs and had to have a wheelchair handy on set. Despite all of these issues and other MS-related challenges, Christina was determined to finish filming and give the characters the send-off they deserved. 

As a person living with MS, I have often hidden my challenges or not talked about my reality openly. Hiding usually comes from a place of fear. I may be afraid that people at my work will think of me differently once they learn about my MS. Or, maybe my friends and family will treat me differently if they know about some of the stuff that I go through each day. Many times this results in me suffering in silence because of that fear.

It was empowering to hear Christina Applegate articulate her challenges. During her press junkets she never once hid from a question or acted like everything was okay. It was quite the opposite. She was honest, forthright, and unafraid. In speaking about her diagnosis, Christina shared her true feelings. She is quoted in the New York Times as saying, “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. I’m pissed.” In the same article, Christina talked about how her diagnosis has physically transformed her. “This is the first time anyone’s going to see me the way I am,” she said. “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.”

For me, Christina Applegate has become the voice of truth and reason and in many ways a spokesperson for the day-to-day challenges of living with MS. She has inspired me to say, “I’m not okay,” and not be afraid with what others might think or say. Thank you, Christina.