"It's really hard because they just aren't the same – and I had really good ones," Applegate, 37, says in the October issue of Women's Health. "If you have boobs you don't like, you can go and choose the size you want, and then get a brand new present. But it's different [when it’s not your choice]."
Still, the actress, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2008, has found a silver lining in the surgery: "I hold on to the fact that I don't have to wear a bra, which is great!”
New PassionAfter her diagnoses, Applegate started a foundation, Right Action for Women, with a focus on testing and early detection of breast cancer.
"I became really passionate about people who are at high risk having the same opportunity to get this sort of testing," says Applegate, who learned she had an early stage of breast cancer following an MRI. "Some insurance companies consider the tests exploratory, which is just ridiculous. I mean, it saved my life!"
She recently had a powerful encounter with a woman who was helped by her foundation. "It was pretty heavy. She was crying and holding me and said, 'Thank you for saving my life,' " Applegate recalls. "When that happens, you can't help but think 'Okay, I've done the right thing.' "
Comic ReliefWhen Applegate was in the hospital, she had a strong support system, and was able to find some relief through humor.
"I laughed more in the hospital than I ever have in my life, making fun of all the weird things that were happening to me. My friends would walk in with this sad look, and I would throw something at them and say, 'Come on! This isn't the end of the world!' "
Her boyfriend, musician Martyn Lenoble, was also her rock through her battle with cancer.
"I don't think I would have been able to get through any of it without him," she says. Still, Applegate nixes the idea that they're getting married soon. "Can a girl please wear a ring on her left hand and not have it be all, 'Is she engaged?' "