Can you keep a secret? Jamie-Lynn Sigler can. For 15 years the actress hid the truth from her fans, her cast mates, her directors and producers—all but her closest confidants.

Picking a stage

But in January 2016, when her wedding to baseball player Cutter Dykstra was making news, Sigler broke her silence and announced that she has multiple sclerosis (MS). “I thought this is a good time because it's around a positive story,” Sigler says, “and hopefully an inspiring one.”

WAKE UP: Sigler urges that one of the most important things to do is to stay active, owning your disease instead of letting it take control of you.

Sigler kept her secret for so long because, like many people with MS, she was reluctant to ask for help. “Especially at work,” she explains. “I was so afraid of the consequences that it felt easier to live under this umbrella of fear. Everyone closest to me would say, ‘You're boxing yourself off. Why don't you free yourself from this secret?’”

The actress says the biggest reason she broke her silence is her two-and-a-half-year-old son. “I did not want him to ever feel he needed to keep a secret for me. That's an unfair thing to ask of a child,” she says. “I though it would teach him compassion. Just because you have a circumstance that is less than ideal, doesn't mean that you're unworthy of opportunity and love.”

"'If you stay in bed and you don't move, then you start to lose abilities. If you keep moving, if you keep pushing, your brain will keep that connection.'”

Troubled rise

Sigler has enjoyed plenty of both since she was diagnosed at age 20. At the time, she was still acting in the award-winning TV series “The Sopranos.” Her career has been going strong since then, in spite of the challenges posed by the disease. “MS will take over if you let it. I've had moments where I have let it, and then I push through,” she admits.

Sigler fervently believes that “pushing through” is the key to dealing with MS. “Every day when I wake up, I would rather stay in bed. That's what my body is telling me—just say under the covers, there's no pain, you're safe here. But if you stay in bed and you don't move, then you start to lose abilities. If you keep moving, if you keep pushing, your brain will keep that connection.”

ON SILENCE: Sigler kept her disease quiet for 15 years, but finally freed herself from her secret as an inspiring life lesson for her son.

Since Sigler revealed the truth, the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. “I’m doing my second job since I came out, and it’s so much better.” she beams. “It's not causing a problem. I'm able to concentrate on my work.

“I also feel a great sense of responsibility to those that have MS because now I’m part of a whole other community.” Her message to that community is one of optimism: “There will be days when you just need to rest, and things you'll have to say no to. But find the things where you can still participate. That’s where hope lies.”