Christina Applegate, who underwent a double mastectomy in 2008 after being diagnosed with breast cancer, says she suffered a "total emotional collapse" following the surgery.
The "Up All Night" star tells More magazine's November issue that news of her operation leaked to the media even before her anesthetic had completely worn off.
"I was walking with my little IV drip thing, in my little robe. My friend said he saw someone take a picture of me. The next day I got a call from my publicist, who said, 'It's out,'" she told More.
Applegate, 40, seized it as an opportunity to talk about breast cancer and her own preventive procedure. "I had two lumpectomies, and I was supposed to start radiation," she said. "Then I found out I had the (BRCA1) gene and my decision was to undergo the prophylactic double mastectomy."
Going public with the disease allowed Applegate to mask her own feelings.
"Talking about the facts of the disease, I didn't have to see what was going on with me," she told More. "I think when it slowed down, all of that came crashing down."
The support of her family, friends and a spiritual adviser helped Applegate heal emotionally in the aftermath of her reconstructive surgery just days before her 37th birthday.
One friend, Porno for Pyros bassist Martyn LeNoble, later became her fiance and father of their daughter, one-year-old Sadie Grace.
"We had always cared deeply for one another when we were friends," Applegate tells More of LeNoble. "And he came and put me under his wing. That was it - he was supposed to come."
Though she's learning to live with her smaller chest, Applegate admits she sometimes misses her "exquisite breasts," referencing a line from her 2004 film "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy."
In the movie, Applegate's Veronica Corningstone tells newsroom boss Ed Harken (Fred Willard), who does not want a female anchor, "This city needs its news. And you are going to deprive them of that because I have breasts? Exquisite breasts?"
She will reprise her role in the 2013 sequel "Anchorman: The Legend Continues."
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