Being diagnosed with an unpredictable, often disabling disease would change anyone’s life in an instant. For actress Jamie-Lynn Sigler, it happened during Season 4 of "The Sopranos."
On an episode of ABC Radio’s "No Limits with Rebecca Jarvis", Sigler tells ABC News Chief Business, Technology & Economics Correspondent Jarvis how she reacted finding out that she had Multiple Sclerosis (MS) at just 20-years-old.
“I had a lot of life ahead of me,” says Sigler, who was in the midst of performing in her breakout role as Meadow Soprano on the hit HBO series. “I was doing everything I wanted to do. I didn’t want to accept that I had something that could possibly take all my dreams away.”
For years, Sigler kept her diagnosis a secret, confiding in only a handful of close friends and family. She also kept busy, continuing her role on "The Sopranos," and starring as Belle in Disney’s "Beauty and the Beast." She also released an album, wrote a book ("Wise Girl: What I’ve Learned about Life, Love, and Loss"), and appeared in a number of television series including "How I Met Your Mother," "Entourage" and "Ugly Betty."
But as Sigler’s career was progressing, so was her MS. “It got to a point…where it was doing more damage than anything, of keeping it a secret because you start to feel these feelings of shame and guilt,” she says.
Then came the birth of her son, and a turning point.
“I never wanted to get to a point where he was going to have to keep that secret for me,” she says. “The things that I’m teaching him, and wanting to instill in him, is that you can do anything and follow your dreams, and you deserve -- always -- an opportunity.”
Now Sigler says she wants to be a voice for anyone with MS who is suffering in silence. She has also teamed up with Serta Mattress Company with the "Declare Peace" campaign to encourage people to take time out of their schedules. Sigler says she creates comfort corners in her home, beginning with the bedroom.
“I really think it makes a difference in my life and my physical, emotional well-being,” she says.
Going forward, Sigler’s goal is to tell “impactful stories, and stories about powerful women overcoming,” adding, “I think for so many years, I’ve always felt like a victim. And I don’t feel that way anymore.”
Sigler adds, "I really feel like I'm entering into a new chapter of my life."
Listen to the full interview on ABC Radio's "No Limits with Rebecca Jarvis."