HomeStars Making A Social ImpactSopranos Star Jamie-Lynn Sigler opens up about her struggles with MS in...

Sopranos Star Jamie-Lynn Sigler opens up about her struggles with MS in order to provide support to others with similar struggles

I just wish for people to understand that being honest and vulnerable actually increases connection. Your life is SO much easier when you realize you have NOTHING to hide. We are all dealing with something. If we all shared our truest selves, our lives could be so much easier.

I had the pleasure to interview Jamie-Lynn Sigler. Jamie has been acting and singing since the age of 7. She got her start in New York regional theater, and has since starred in over two dozen theatrical productions including “Annie,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “The Sound of Music,” “The Wiz,” and “Gypsy.” In the summer of 2001, she starred in the touring production of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s “Cinderella,” playing the lead opposite Eartha Kitt. Jamie made her Broadway debut starring as Belle in Disney’s Broadway production of “Beauty and the Beast” from October of 2002 through February 2003. Beyond her theatrical appearances, she starred as Meadow Soprano in the critically acclaimed HBO original series The Sopranos (1999). For her work on the show, she received the 1999 and 2000 Hollywood Reporter Young Star Awards for Best Young Actress in a Dramatic Television Series and both 2001 and 2002 ALMA nominations. She also has a SAG Award for The Sopranos (1999) Best Ensemble Cast. In 2002, she published her revealing autobiography, “Wise Girl” (Pocket Books) to rave reviews. A few years ago, she was paralyzed from the waist down for several days with Lyme Disease. Her recovery has given her a fresh outlook on her work and her life. Jamie is originally from Jericho (Long Island, New York) and currently resides in New York City. Jamie, who battled an eating disorder in the late 1990s while starring on The Sopranos (1999), is a spokesperson for the National Eating Disorders Association . Jamie also suffers from Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and has partnered with Walgreens in their Wake Up Call campaign.

Thank you so much for doing this with us Jamie! We greatly appreciate your honesty and bravery to share this with us. Can you share a story with us about your struggles with MS?

I’ve lived with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) for the past 18 years, and by now, I’ve learned how best to manage my condition. But for years after I was first diagnosed, I refused to give my body the attention it needed. Most days I didn’t feel sick, so I thought that I could get away with taking my medication when I felt like it. I eventually realized my medications were my true ally in fighting this disease. And the only way I could live the life I wanted, was if I started being responsible with my treatment. Which meant acceptance and consistency. After I came to terms with my situation and began taking my medications as prescribed, I was lucky that the progression of my MS stopped in its tracks. My routine has allowed my symptoms to be less of a question mark on my day-to-day. When I realized how important, but admittedly difficult, it can be to keep with treatment, I partnered with Walgreens on its “Wake Up Call” adherence campaign to take some of the weight off.

By using the app, I get daily pill reminders that pop up on my smartphone, reminding me to take my medications. The app has helped me stay on track with my medication regimen. My hope is that by sharing my story and experience, it will help others with chronic illnesses stay adherent to their medications, too.

Are there three things you wish someone told you when you were first diagnosed with MS?

  • Staying on treatment at the beginning increases your chances of the disease not progressing. I thought because I didn’t “feel” sick initially, that I could cheat my way through.
  • MS will actually give you things. Like a new view and appreciation of all things in life. It will slow you down, but also bring you inwards. Accept the gifts that come with this journey.
  • It’s nothing to be ashamed of. You will be ok. Ask for help.

What would you recommend to others who struggle with MS?

I think that in order to avoid the potentially serious, negative health implications that may accompany skipping doses of medication, you should take the time to sit, and process your situation with a team (mine is my family and friends). When you face a chronic illness alone, you are bound to fall way more times than you would with a support system. It needs to go beyond your doctors, because you deserve to live a full and happy life, no matter what your diagnosis. There are still ways to find joy and thrive.

There are thousands of charities and causes you could have used your celebrity to promote. Why did you choose to support this particular cause.

The most important people in my life that have been impacted through this campaign has been my family. As an actress and mom of two young boys, our crazy schedules can make remembering to take my medications challenging at times. My husband is my rock and back-up reminder, but between auditions, playdates, grocery store runs and making time for each other, even my back-up reinforcement can forget a dose. Forgetfulness is human, but there’s added pressure when forgetting means sending my body out of whack. The peace of mind that has come from electronic support and knowing I can be my best self for my family has truly been invaluable.

For the many people struggling with chronic illnesses, staying on top of your treatment plan can be overwhelming, especially when we adamantly don’t want these diseases to define our busy lives. But not adhering can cause serious negative health implications. After keeping my MS a secret for so many years, I’m using my story and my reality to help Walgreens encourage others to hop on board. It’s amazing what a solid support network can do for your health when battling a disease that’s so consuming — even if that support is electronic.

What have you learned that you didn’t know, since you started this campaign?

I was surprised at what a common issue it has been amongst those living with chronic illness of sometimes forgetting to take care of your prescriptions and remembering to take medications properly. You would think living with a chronic illness and constantly being reminded about your situation that taking your meds, or remembering to refill them would not be an issue, but life happens! I have two small boys, and between my acting career and juggling them and their schedules, I am SO grateful that I get my daily reminders and refill reminders so I stay on top of things, and take the best care of myself possible.

Ok. Lets now go in a different direction. How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

I would define leadership as guiding by example. I want to raise awareness and let others battling chronic conditions know that there are these resources out there to help them stay on track with their medication regimens. Plus, fighting a chronic illness takes bravery and strength — something I wanted to demonstrate when opening up about my MS.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I just wish for people to understand that being honest and vulnerable actually increases connection and your life is SO much easier when you realize you have NOTHING to hide. We are all dealing with something. If we all shared our truest selves, our lives could be so much easier.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“View everyone as if they are always trying to do the best they can.” One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned, which was brought about by my journey with MS, is to be kind to myself. I’ve gone through so many mental stages as a result of my condition, even feeling at times that I was being punished and punishing my body back by ignoring its needs. For me, being kind to myself eventually meant being a responsible patient. I learned to give validation to my feelings and acknowledge the gravity of my situation, while managing the aspects I could control. Part of the journey to achieve this was asking for help — from my family and my pharmacy.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Oprah! obviously. She is so thirsty for knowledge and understanding and meaning. I would follow her anywhere.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Please feel free to follow me on my journey through my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter channels.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!