Christina Applegate Uses Humor to Deal With MS
In the time-honored tradition of funny Christmas songs, Christina Applegate has parodied a holiday tune of her own. But instead of tipsy grandmothers or miserly grinches, Applegate's Christmas carol is about a decidedly less jolly topic: her multiple sclerosis (MS) diagnosis.
The actor crooned a short-and-snarky number to the tune of "Santa Baby" on a recent episode of "The Kelly Clarkson Show."
"Disaby baby, hurry down the chimney tonight / I can't / 'cause my wheelchair won't fit down it."
Applegate wielded humor as a shield to cope with the pain of her MS diagnosis.
"My humor shield keeps me OK," Applegate told Clarkson. "But of course, down on the insides, you feel the things.
"I do it to kind of deflect and then also make people not be scared to be around me," she said. "When people see me now as a disabled person, I want them to feel comfortable that we can laugh about it."
Applegate received her diagnosis of MS while filming the third and final season of "Dead to Me" in the summer of 2021. Recalling the experience of being diagnosed, Applegate said, "It sucked balls.
"To be honest, being diagnosed with MS last year and what happened to my body, to my mind, to my spirit, to my everything, of course, I didn't want to be around anyone or talk about it, but I had to go to work," Applegate remembered.
Applegate emphasized she wasn't "forced" to go to work but felt a duty to finish the show.
"It was like a part of my family. [Co-star] Linda Cardellini, [creator] Liz Feldman, everyone there is my family," she said. "And there's a story that we didn't get to finish, and I pushed as hard as I could through that, so it was really incredibly difficult."
What to know about MS
MS is a chronic condition that disrupts communication between the brain and the body. One of the most common autoimmune diseases, MS impacts close to a million people in the United States, according to National Multiple Sclerosis Society estimates.
MS symptoms vary widely, with some patients experiencing mild symptoms that don't require treatment and others struggling to move and perform basic tasks. According to the National MS Society, some of the more common symptoms include dysesthesia—a squeezing sensation around the torso also known as an MS hug— fatigue, walking difficulties, vision problems, and vertigo and dizziness.
MS is three to four times more common in women than in men, but men who have it are likely to experience sexual issues such as erectile dysfunction (ED), delayed orgasm and a decrease in libido. However, women also can be impacted by sexual issues, including reduced sensation in their clitoris and vaginal dryness.
Treatment for MS
There is no cure for MS, however, there are medicines and other treatments that can help control the disease and alleviate some of the symptoms.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved several "disease-modifying" therapies to treat MS. These medications—which come in the form of injections, oral medications and infused medications—have been found to prevent relapses, delay the development of disability and minimize new disease activity.
In addition, lifestyle changes, such as stopping smoking and exercising more, have been shown to improve MS symptoms.
Support and resources for people with MS
MS symptoms can disappear and reappear, so the disease is unpredictable and challenging. Daily activities may be hampered by fatigue, pain and coordination issues, all compounded by the stress of having a chronic illness.
If you, like Applegate, are facing a new MS diagnosis, the first thing to do is find an MS specialist. MS is a lifelong condition, so it's important to find someone you trust and like.
The National MS Society has a website tool that can help you find providers who specialize in treating MS. The same tool can help you locate local resources, including home care and housing programs, mobility and accessibility providers, medical and assistive equipment providers, and attorneys who specialize in MS-related claims.
In addition to speaking to healthcare professionals, the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA) recommends participating in a support group for newly diagnosed individuals.
Above all: Do not lose hope. The past couple of decades have witnessed the development of many new medications and therapies that make living with MS more controllable and comfortable. Research is ongoing and many new, promising treatments are underway.