When Christina Applegate walked the red carpet at the Screen Actor Guild Awards in February, she sent a strong message to her 2021 MS diagnosis: “FU MS” read the letters on her cane.
That symbol of defiance in the face of multiple sclerosis has inspired a new collaboration between the actress, 51, and Neo Walk, the UK walking stick company that custom designed her SAG cane.
The special edition cane (“FU MS” is written on a removable tag; a removable metal collar can be personalized with any message) is now available at neo-walk.com for £120 (about $150), with 5% of the profits going to the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America and the UK’s MS Society.
Applegate first learned of Neo Walk — founded by Lyndsay Watterson, who is an amputee — from her friend Selma Blair, who also lives with MS. “I saw Selma’s canes and fell in love with them,” Applegate says. “If I need to have a mobility aid, I might as well have a cool one. Lyndsay and I became friends and we decided to create one together that benefits the community.”
The collaboration, a clear acrylic cane which features a black DNA strand weaving through the center (which “symbolizes the invisible differences people have with chronic illness,” Watterson says), is one of the few projects Applegate has taken on recently.
After wrapping her Netflix series Dead to Me late last year, the actress has said she decided to step away from acting to deal with the effects of her MS, telling the Los Angeles Times earlier this year that her SAG award appearance was “my last awards show as an actor probably, so it’s kind of a big deal. Right now, I couldn’t imagine getting up at 5 a.m. and spending 12 to 14 hours on a set; I don’t have that in me at this moment.”
Instead, Applegate, who has been raw and open about the struggles she’s endured with the illness, is prioritizing her health, a friend tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “Christina needs to focus on herself right now,” the friend says. “What she chooses to share with the public is very real and in her own time, but her energy and focus right now needs to be on taking care of herself and her family as she learns how to live with MS. MS affects everyone differently so she needs to tune into what works for her and what triggers her flare ups.”
But, the friend adds: “Christina is one of the strongest people I know and also one of the most caring and generous, so it doesn’t surprise me at all that she took time to collaborate and create a design that reflects her attitude and will also benefit others.”