Kristen Johnston Reveals Severity of Lupus, Grateful for Improvement

PHOTO: Actress Kristen Johnston attends the 14th Annual Lupus LA Orange Ball at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel, May 8, 2014, in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Actress Kristen Johnston is sharing details about her battle with lupus, saying the condition was so debilitating for her that she felt she was "swimming in molasses."

Johnston, who starred on the hit sitcom "3rd Rock From the Sun" and now appears in TV Lands' sitcom "The Exes," said in an interview with People magazine that she realized something was wrong last summer when she had trouble climbing the stairs.

It took visits to 17 doctors before Johnston, 46, had the correct diagnosis: lupus myelitis, a rare form of the disease that affects the spinal cord.

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The actress was treated with chemo and steroids and was in remission six months later, she told People.

The illness affected her so badly she couldn't lift her neck without a brace.

"If I had to live like that forever, I would have killed myself," she told People.

Johnston's doctor, rheumatologist Daniel J. Wallace, said the actress would have ended up a quadriplegic had treatment been delayed much longer, People reported.

Now, she's grateful for her health turnaround.

"Every single day is a gift, and I don't take one second of it for granted," she said.

In December the actress posted on her Facebook page to let her fans know that she would miss two episodes of the show because of the illness.

Johnston has acknowledged having struggled for years with alcohol and drug addictions. In a video on People magazine's website, Johnston said sobriety was one of the hardest things anyone could do.

"Everything was always masked by drugs and alcohol, so to go through this terrible experience it's -- I don't know, I'm just a really happy human being. I'm just very grateful, very grateful," she said.

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