Jamie-Lynn Sigler told the Today show on Wednesday, January 27, that she concealed her multiple sclerosis diagnosis for nearly 15 years because she feared how it would impact her career. The Sopranos actress, 34, sat down with Matt Lauer for her first live interview since she went public with her condition last week.
"I'm good, I feel relief," Sigler said on the NBC morning show. "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.… I feel a great weight off my shoulders.… It sounds crazy, but when you hold a secret, those feelings just come along with that. Especially when you hold a secret as long as I did."
She also struggled with vulnerability. "With something like MS, you lose control over things that you once had and it's slowly taken away from you, and that can chip away at your self-worth. You have to ask for help sometimes, which is something I'm not good at doing," she shared. "When you have a good support system like I have, it helps out."
The star was diagnosed with MS at 20 while filming the fourth season of HBO's acclaimed drama The Sopranos. Sigler said her initial symptoms were light — "heaviness, tingliness in my legs" — and later aggravated by her 2005 divorce from A.J. DiScala. "During a stressful time — I was going through a divorce at 24, 25 — things started to happen," she recalled.
Sigler told Lauer her symptoms have intensified over the last five years. "They are weakness on my right side, a little bit of coordination; high heels are hard for me. I love high heels but, unfortunately, that's limited," she shared. "I cannot run. Can't dance the way I used to. Things like that are hard."
The proud mom of 2-year-old Beau also explained why she concealed her diagnosis for years. "One of the first people I told was an industry professional," she recalled. "And I know they were looking out for me at the time, [but] they said, 'I'm going to pretend you didn't tell me that and I don't think you should ever tell people you have this disease. Because people will limit you. People will judge you. They won't hire you.'"
Only close friends, costars and family members knew, and guarded her secret for years. "My friends and my family have fiercely protected me," she shared on Wednesday. "They wanted me to come out and they encouraged me."
So why share now? "I didn't want to bring my son up in a home where he felt like he had to hold this secret for me too," she revealed. "Despite what I have or my limitations, everyone is deserving of these opportunities.… I didn't anticipate the level of responsibility that I now feel.… I'm excited to go back to work without feeling that I have something to hide. I feel like I can be a better actress now that I can be me."
Watch part of her sit-down above.
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