While Jamie-Lynn Sigler starred on the series The Sopranos in her 20s, she was fighting a secret battle.
The young actress, at only 20, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), and she didn’t want any of her co-stars to know about it, Jamie-Lynn revealed to People.
“Sometimes all I needed was like five or 10 minutes to sit and recharge but I wouldn’t ask, because I didn’t want them to be suspicious,” she said in an interview this week, which also covered her wedding over the weekend to minor league baseball player Cutter Dykstra, 26.
So, Sigler covered up her illness, revealing the truth eventually only to a few co-stars because they were “like family,” she told Today. Among those she confided in was the late James Gandolfini — who played her father on the show. He became even more protective of her after learning about her MS diagnosis.
“He was really awesome about it,” Jamie-Lynn recalled.
But now it was time to share her MS diagnosis with the rest of the world. Now 34, Sigler has been battling the disease for 15 years, and during most of that time, she’s been symptom-free. More recently, however, the disease has “reared its ugly head.”
Hi. My name is Jamie, and I have Multiple Scelrosis. This has been a part of me, that for many reasons I was terrified to share for the last 15 years since I was diagnosed..but I've finally found the strength to come forward and be ok with who I really am and trust that life will still have things to offer even though I have this disease. It has slowed me down and it can make things hard, but there is still a lot I CAN do. I hope I can be an example to anyone struggling out there to push through and past your circumstances. I want to thank @peoplemag for sharing my story in such a huge way and allowing me to reach out. Your publication always handles stories so beautifully, and mine is no exception. And an even bigger thank you to my husband, my son, my family and my friends (who are my family.)..You all have fiercely protected me over the years when I was too scared to share this publicly, for fear that everything would go away. You stood by me, helped me when I needed it, and always made me feel loved and worthy of things even when I felt less than and different. I really am a lucky girl and I can't wait to see what life has in store for me now that I can finally live my truth Love to all of you. XX????Jamie ????: by the wonderful @andrewsoutham
“I can’t walk for a long period of time without resting. I cannot run. No superhero roles for me. Stairs? I can do them but they’re not the easiest. When I walk, I have to think about every single step, which is annoying and frustrating.”
Sigler has tried multiple MS drugs, from injections to infusions, settling on a medicine that has finally kept her symptoms at bay for the last six years. She still struggles with the fatigue, and a general weakness on her right side.
So why, after 15 years, has Jamie-Lynn finally decided to come forward about her illness?
She’s finally ready.
“You’d think that after all these years, somebody would be settled with something like this, but it’s still hard to accept,” she said.
Sigler is one of a handful of celebrities who struggle with MS. Among them are Montel Williams, Ann Romney, and Jack Osbourne. Jamie-Lynn’s inspiration for sharing her secret is her two-year-old son Beau, because she didn’t want to force him to keep her secret, too. And she wanted to show him how to be strong and courageous.
“I don’t want to hold a secret where it feels like I have something to be ashamed of or have something to hide. It’s part of me, but it’s not who I am.”
According to E! News, Jamie-Lynn also wants to inspire other MS patients. Despite her illness, Sigler has said “there is still a lot I CAN do” and that it takes a “fighting attitude” to deal with a disease that can “absolutely take over your life if you let it.”
Sigler isn’t the first person hesitant to share her MS diagnosis. Both Williams and Osbourne admitted in separate interviews that once people learn you have the disease, they assume you’re weak, The Boston Globe added.
But every case of MS is unique to the patient, stressed Rosalind Kalb of the National MS Society to CBS News. MS, which affects 2.3 million people in the U.S., causes the immune system to attack the protective covering on the brain and spinal cord’s nerve fibers. The disruption to nerve messages “occurs in somewhat random locations,” which means “one person’s symptoms can be very different from the next.”
And that’s part of what makes MS so difficult to accept, like it was for Jamie-Lynn, noted Angel Blair from the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA). The disease causes discomfort and unease, but in unpredictable ways; ”living with that instability can be worrisome,” she noted.
But for all her struggles, Sigler is taking her illness in stride and is still excited about her future — her new marriage, her son, and the prospect of growing her family.
“I don’t know what’s to come. But I’m excited for the first time in a long time. I’ve got my brain and my heart and I’ve prepared myself for everything that could happen. But I’ve got an amazing husband, the best son, and I hope that we can make more babies and just keep having fun. I’m the luckiest girl in the world.”
This week researchers announced a new treatment for MS, which could completely reverse the disease.
[Photo By Alison Buck / Getty Images]