Jamie-Lynn Sigler is now opening up about her more than decade-long battle with multiple sclerosis, but for many years it was her deepest, darkest secret.
In an interview on the Today Show this week, the former “Sopranos” star revealed that she kept the original diagnosis of the debilitating disorder a well-guarded secret to avoid destroying her career, especially after what a Hollywood insider told her it would doom her profession.
"One of the first people I told was an industry professional, and I know they were looking out for me at the time but they said: 'Pretend you didn't tell me that, and I don't think you should ever tell anyone that you have this disease. Because people will limit you, people will judge you and they won't hire you,'” she said. “And I took that advice. I was 20 years told, I was scared and I thought that was the best thing.”
Sigler revealed earlier this month that she was diagnosed with M.S. at 20 years old while shooting the fourth season of her hit HBO show. It’s only now – 15 years later – that she is comfortable talking about it.
“I feel a great weight off my shoulders,” 34-year-old actress said in her first live television interview since revealing her struggle to People magazine last week. "You know, I lived with this secret that caused me to have so many feelings of shame and guilt and fear for so many years and so I think to finally sort of feel like I'm claiming my power back and being confident with the person that I am, I feel a great weight off my shoulders.”
Sigler, who is of European and Cuban descent, said she did confide in some of her cast members eventually, but asked them to keep it private.
"Them and my friends and my family, they have fiercely protected me over these years and they wanted me to come out. I just wasn't ready, I was afraid,” she said. “But I'm not anymore."
She said that she has been symptom-free, but has definitely struggled with the effects of the neurological disease. “High heels are hard for me. I cannot run. I can’t dance the way I used to. It’s hard,” she said.
There is no cure for M.S., but Sigler takes medication twice a day to keep her symptoms in check.
While she is excited and has every intention of continuing her career despite of her diagnosis now becoming public, Sigler said she is embracing her new role as a spokesperson for men and women battling M.S.
“I didn’t anticipate the level of responsibility I now feel for representing a whole group of people that suffer in silence,” she said. “I hope I can change people’s idea of what this disease is.”