Multiple Sclerosis Patient and ‘Sopranos’ Actress Takes MS Struggle Public
Millions of television viewers who watched the popular HBO mob drama series “The Sopranos” saw actress Jamie Lynn Sigler grow from a teen into a young woman as Meadow Soprano, the independent-minded daughter of mafia boss Tony Soprano, played by the late James Gandolfini.
This week, Sigler revealed she has been battling multiple sclerosis (MS) for the past 15 years, a period that included some of the work she did on “The Sopranos.” She told People magazine she was diagnosed with MS at age 19.
Largely symptom-free early on, Sigler, now 34, told People her symptoms have intensified over the past decade and that she can no longer run or walk for long periods without stopping to rest. Stairs are a challenge, and when she walks she has to think about every step.
“You’d think that after all these years, somebody would be settled with something like this, but it’s still hard to accept,” Sigler told People.
Despite her struggles with MS, Sigler looks radiant in photos of her wedding Jan. 16 to Washington Nationals infielder Cutter Dykstra, 26, in Palm Springs, California. Sigler and Dykstra have a 2-year-old son, Beau.
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society explains that relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) — the most common course of the incurable disease — is characterized by clearly defined attacks of worsening neurological function, flare-ups, or exacerbations, also called relapses, which are followed by partial or complete recovery periods (remissions). During remissions, symptoms improve partially or completely and there is no apparent progression of disease. The society says approximately 85 percent of people with MS are initially diagnosed with RRMS.
Most people who are initially diagnosed with RRMS will eventually transition to secondary-progressive MS (SPMS), in which the disease will begin to progress steadily, though not necessarily more rapidly, with or without relapses. The MS Society notes that most available disease-modifying therapies used to treat MS are approved by the FDA to treat relapsing forms of MS, which include RRMS and SPMS.
There is currently no cure for multiple sclerosis. Sigler told People she has taken a wide variety of MS drugs over the years, orally and by injection and infusion. She is currently taking a twice-daily pill regimen of Biogen’s MS drug Tecfidera (dimethyl fumarate), which, while no relapsing MS medication completely stops them, has been shown to cut the risk of relapse in half when compared with a placebo in a two-year study. In the drug study, 27 percent of people taking Tecfidera suffered a relapse, compared to 46 percent among those taking a placebo. Sigler says Tecfidera has kept her symptoms stable and manageable for the past six years.
Sigler, who told People that MS can take over your life if you don’t fight it tenaciously, credits Dykstra and Beau with giving her the courage and support to confront her daily battle. She said she’s now ready to “live her truth” in public.