12 years ago, Christina Applegate had a double mastectomy. She still thinks about it every day.


Warning: This post contains some spoilers for Netflix’s Dead To Me.

When Christina Applegate‘s character Jen in the undeniably addictive Netflix tragicomedy Dead to Me reveals her double mastectomy, it’s a seemingly small detail used to soften Jen’s somewhat prickly exterior.

The veteran actress, 48, plays a resentful widow who unknowingly befriends her husband’s killer Judy, played by Linda Cardellini.

Image: Netflix.

In the fourth episode of season one, Jen reveals she had her breasts removed as a precaution after her mother died of breast cancer.

In actuality, Applegate had the detail written in to the show to reflect a traumatic aspect of her own life, shedding light on what she sees as an under-represented trauma so many women go through.

Watch the trailer for the second season of Dead to Me below. Post continues after video.

"It hasn’t really been discussed on shows before; I don’t think there’s a lot of characters out there with double mastectomies," the actress told USA Today.

"But I went through it, and it’s a horribly painful process – emotionally, spiritually, physically – and I never really talked about it. I thought this was my chance to tell a little bit about me, but also all the women that have gone through that."

Christina Applegate. Image: Getty.

The actress herself chose to have a double mastectomy after she was diagnosed with breast cancer at 36 – a decision she finds herself reflecting on daily.

“I think about it every day,” she said. “Girls who go through this, we say to each other, ‘Yep, it’s been 10 years,’ but you’re never not aware that that’s something you’ve been through. Everything looks different. You have to shower and you’re like, ‘Oh, there they are. That happened.'”

As the daughter of a breast cancer survivor, Applegate was vigilant about getting regular mammograms, as she explained in an interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2008.


When early stage breast cancer was detected in her left breast, Applegate described holding back back tears before immediately entering survival mode.

"I'm a Sagittarius," she said. "We need things done now. So, for me, I had to get in now, and I wanted to have my surgery now."

Within a week, Applegate had her first lumpectomy, and was told she needed six weeks radiotherapy instead of chemotherapy. She also tested positive for the breast cancer gene, which meant the chances of the cancer coming back were potentially higher.

"That sort of changed everything for me," she told Oprah. "Radiation was something temporary, and it wasn't addressing the issue of this coming back or the chance of it coming back in my left breast. I sort of had to kind of weigh all my options at that point."

The options were; go forward with the radiation treatments and continue testing for the rest of her life or have both breasts removed.

The mum-of-one made the difficult decision to have a bilateral mastectomy. "It came on really fast. It was one of those things that I woke up and it felt so right," she explained.

"It just seemed like, 'I don't want to have to deal with this again. I don't want to keep putting that stuff in my body. I just want to be done with this' and I was just going to let them go."

But there was one thing Applegate felt she needed to do before she went in for surgery.


She staged a nude photo shoot. "I made sure that I have close-up photographs of them from every angle so I can kind of remember them," she said.

Speaking of the physical and emotional scars she was left with following the procedure, she said;

"It can be very painful.

"It's also a part of you that's gone, so you go through a grieving process and a mourning process."

Back in 2008, the year she had the surgery, she said she "cried a least once a day".

Christina Applegate, 2008. Image: Getty.

"It doesn't feel the same, and it's hard to carry your purse," she explained. "I cry at least once a day about it because it's hard to overlook it when you're standing there in the mirror. When you look down, it's the first thing you see... So you're reminded constantly of this thing – this cancer thing that you had."

But she said there was one bright side to the surgery... never having to wear a bra again.

Now, the Anchorman star is using her Netflix platform to create a community for anyone thinking about having a mastectomy as a preventative measure.

“It’s such a personal choice,” Applegate told USA Today. “I don’t know what anyone’s going to take away from that moment or scene, except for ‘Wow, I felt that way, too, and I’m going to be OK.’ Because you will. It’s OK to admit that you feel that way.”

In 2017, Applegate also shared that after surviving breast cancer, she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed.

“Two weeks ago, I had my ovaries and [fallopian] tubes removed,” she told Today.com at the time. “My cousin passed away from ovarian cancer in 2008. I could prevent that.”

Applegate has a nine-year-old daughter named Sadie with her husband Martyn LeNoble, who she met just months after her double mastectomy in 2008.

christina applegate and martyn lenoble
Christina Applegate and husband Martyn LeNoble. Image: Getty.

"I have a small but mighty support system and Martyn has really been an incredible part of my life," she told US Weekly in 2010. "Without him, I don't know if I could've gone through any of it. He came around at a time when there was a lot of loss in my life on many levels, so he's been a really incredible help."

Feature Image: Getty.

This post was originally published on May 12, 2019, and updated on May 10, 2020.