Jennie Garth's Family Crisis: 'I Had Six Months of Hell'
09/04/2008 AT 06:45 AM EDT
"I had this six months of hell," the actress, 36, tells PEOPLE. "I had a sick daughter and then my father passed away, so there was a six month period in my life when I didn't think about my looks or my weight or my body or anything."
Fresh off her stint on Dancing With The Stars – and toned from months of 8-hour-a-day dance practices – Garth suddenly faced every mother's worst nightmare. Her 5-year-old daughter Lola, "got very sick and we didn't know what was wrong with her," says Garth, who has three girls with husband Peter Facinelli. "I was basically locked in a closet with her for three months."
Leaving all vanity behind, "I didn't exercise or eat healthy," she adds. "I had been a 27 in my jeans after Dancing With the Stars and I was so excited. But it really went back quickly. I definitely gained inches and a size."
Finally, doctors were able to diagnose her daughter's ailment. "It turned out to be a form of JRA [Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis] and we treated her and it's in remission," says Garth. "It was tough, but she's better now."
2007: Jennie Garth invites PEOPLE into her home
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