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Sopranos alum Jamie-Lynn Sigler opened up on Wednesday’s Today show about what it was like living with multiple sclerosis for nearly 15 years, a diagnosis she kept a secret until last week.
In her first TV interview since telling People magazine that she had the degenerative disease, Sigler told NBC’s Matt Lauer that she felt “relief” after going public with her condition.
“I lived with this secret that caused me to have so many feelings of shame and guilt and fear for so many years, 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,” she said.
In talking about why the actress kept her disease a secret, Sigler said shortly after she was diagnosed, while filming HBO’s The Sopranos, an “industry professional” advised her to not tell anyone.
“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 anyone that you have this disease, because people will limit you, people will judge you, and they won’t hire you,'” Sigler recounted on Wednesday’s Today. “And I took that advice. I was 20 years old, I was scared and I thought that was the best thing.”
She did tell some of her Sopranos co-stars as well as her friends and family, who all protected her secret, but she said she wasn’t ready to do so until recently.
“I was afraid, but I’m not anymore,” said Sigler.
When she was first diagnosed she said her symptoms consisted of “heaviness” and tingling in her legs, and the actress lived symptom-free for a few years until she went through a stressful divorce from her first husband.
For the past five years, though, Sigler said her symptoms “have been hard” and consist of “weakness on my right side, little bit of coordination. High heels are hard for me. … I cannot run. I can’t dance the way I used to.”
But she said she’s “excited about the future” and hopes not only that she won’t be limited as an actress after revealing her condition but that being open about her MS will make her a better performer.
“I’m excited to go back to work without feeling that I have something to hide,” said Sigler. “I feel like I’ll be a better actress for it now that I can show up and really be me. And I’ve been working with this disease. I’ve been working all of these years. It was hard, but I’m really looking forward to the future and I understand that some people may not want to hire me and some may. … But I have every intention of continuing my career.”
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