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Suzanne Somers to Christina Applegate: Use Cancer to Learn and Grow

08/11/2008 at 12:50 PM EDT

Suzanne Somers to Christina Applegate: Use Cancer to Learn and Grow
Suzanne Somers (left) and Christina Applegate
Byron Purvis/FilmMagic; Jesse Grant/WireImage
After announcing earlier this month she'd been diagnosed with breast cancer, Samantha Who? star Christina Applegate is receiving words of support and encouragement from fellow TV star Suzanne Somers, herself a breast cancer survivor.

Somers, 61, who announced in 2001 that she was battling the disease, has written an open letter to Applegate, 36, and which has been made exclusively available to PEOPLE:

Dear Christina,

Cancer is scary, and lonely. You can't ask anyone to make decisions for you because it's just too heavy. There is a lot of 'rush to treatment,' when what you really need is time to research and think about how you want to approach this. Take your time Christina, there is no rush. Take your time and think it through. Use your cancer to learn and grow and as a force to work for you. You might choose to take an alternative approach. There are more options than the ones presented to you in the oncologist's office. You will make it. The success and drive you have had in your career will be the same strengths you will use to win over this nasty disease. And I am here if you want to talk to someone who was 'there.'

Suzanne Somers

• In 2001, Suzanne Somers sparked controversy by battling breast cancer without chemotherapy on the cover of PEOPLE

• For more advice from experts and survivors on living with breast cancer, see

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