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How Christina Applegate and Jamie-Lynn Sigler Are 'Helping Each Other Through' MS: 'We Both Needed This' (Exclusive)

Christina Applegate, 52, and Jamie-Lynn Sigler, 42, open up to PEOPLE about how Applegate's multiple sclerosis diagnosis in 2021 “brought us together”

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John Russo

Christina Applegate and Jamie-Lynn Sigler

It’s raining in the Hollywood Hills outside Christina Applegate’s home as the actress leans her head against Jamie-Lynn Sigler’s shoulder.

Gripping Sigler’s hand, Applegate explains that it’s been a tough few days leading up to this, her first photo shoot in four years: “The last five days I’ve been sobbing, going, ‘I’m going to have to cancel.’ I was throwing up last night, thinking about all of it. Being touched, makeup and hair, even talking about it, I get spasms. Weird positions, shoes, people, noise, climate I can’t control. It all goes through my mind, and I want to go back to bed and watch Naked and Afraid.

She links arms with Sigler, who’s on a rare visit from her home in Austin. “I wouldn’t have done it today without her.” Sigler rubs her hand. “But you did it,” she tells Applegate. “We did it. A lot is still possible.”

That optimism has been a lifeline for Applegate since the actresses’ mutual friend Lance Bass put them in touch in 2021 after Applegate was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis while in the midst of filming her Netflix series Dead to Me. “If I didn’t have her, I wouldn’t be able to do this life thing,” says Applegate, 52.

For Sigler, 42, who learned she had MS more than two decades ago when she was costarring on The Sopranos, Applegate’s blunt honesty and humor in the face of the disease were liberating. (“Even on an ‘up’ day, MS is there. It’s just less sh—y,” Applegate says.) Now the two are sharing their journey in a new podcast, MeSsy, debuting March 19.

The podcast will draw on the reflections of famous friends and former costars including Martin Short and Edie Falco, and provide an unflinching yet humorous take on living with MS and the wider challenges and life issues that Sigler and Applegate face every day.

Says Sigler: “The way Christina allows me to talk about the hard stuff, I needed desperately.”

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Related: Christina Applegate and Jamie-Lynn Sigler Share How MS 'Brought Us Together' — and Inspired Their New Podcast (Exclusive)

You’ve become close friends. What clicked?

JAMIE-LYNN SIGLER: We’re in two very different places with MS, but we help each other. Christina opened me up. I didn’t realize how desperately I needed to stop trying to be perfect. One thing I haven’t done in the last 23 years is admit it was hard, because I didn’t want to let anyone down.

CHRISTINA APPLEGATE: She’s the only person who really knows me. I can talk about anything with her. Constipation, diarrhea . . . Bravo TV.

Christina, you called your MS diagnosis “devastating”. How are you coping today?

APPLEGATE: My symptoms are worse in the morning, like crazy-town bad. The pain and the numbness and the balance. It’s horrible. So of course first thing in the morning, I’m real pissed off about it all. But I don’t want to be like this always. And I know I won’t, because I have my hero here [pointing to Jamie]. I know I’ll live a long enough life . . . [her voice catches] to experience my kid and the things she’s going to do. And I need to be here, so I’ve got to fight. I got to fight.

You’ve been hospitalized for symptoms, correct?

APPLEGATE: Many times. They don’t know what’s wrong, but we’re pretty sure my stomach and my intestines are not very good friends. It causes me intense pain and vomiting. I gained 45 lbs. when I was diagnosed, from steroids and lack of mobility. It’s just a body that doesn’t feel right. And I’ve lost 30-something. People are like, “What have you been doing?” And I’m like, “Vomiting.” Not Ozempic. Barfing.

Applegate pauses to shift her position on the couch.

APPLEGATE: Sorry, my legs are so ouchy right now.

SIGLER: Do you want to stretch out?

APPLEGATE: Thanks, Mama. Are your legs okay?

SIGLER: Fine.

APPLEGATE: You’re so good at MS.

SIGLER: I’ve had more time.

APPLEGATE: [Sighs] I want to be good at it too.

Related: Christina Applegate Says She’s ‘Not Putting a Time Stamp’ on Grieving Process After MS Diagnosis: ‘It’s Hard’

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John Russo

"We found each other when we needed each other," says Sigler, with Applegate in L.A.

Jamie, your boys Beau and Jack are 10 and 6. Christina, your daughter Sadie is 13. How does MS affect parenting?

APPLEGATE: My daughter’s had to see the loss of her mom, in the way that I was a mom with her. Dancing with her every day. Picking her up from school every day. Working at her school, working in the library. Being present, out of the house, out of my bed. She doesn’t see those things anymore. If she comes in my room and sees I’m laying on my side, she knows she can’t ask me to do anything. And that breaks me. Because I love doing stuff for my kid. I love making her food and bringing it to her, but I just can’t sometimes. But I try. I try.

SIGLER: My kids have only known me with MS. They know that certain things are hard for me, and they don’t even come to me anymore. A lot of times I can’t muster the energy.

APPLEGATE: It’s heartbreaking when you have to say to them, “I can’t.” It’s like the worst feeling in the world as a mother. You’re supposed to be their protector in life. When you have to say, “I can’t,” it rips your soul apart. [She wipes away tears.] I’m sorry. I freak out about it every day.

How have your husbands supported you? [Sigler has been married to former MLB player Cutter Dykstra, 34, since 2016; Applegate has been married to bassist Martyn LeNoble, 54, since 2013.]

SIGLER: They see that we’re strong women, and they’re aware we wouldn’t ask for help if we didn’t need it. My husband wanted to help too much. I almost felt like, “I need you to look at me as your wife and not always somebody that needs help.” We had to go to therapy about it. It felt like MS was the other woman in the relationship, and that’s all he saw. When you live with a chronic illness, everyone in your intimate circle is affected by it. Accommodations have to be made for it.

APPLEGATE: Which makes you feel awful. I don’t want it to be that way. It sucks. We went to Europe last year, and there was a lot of walking. Some days they wanted to do fun things, and I’d have to be like, “I don’t want to be the burden, so I’m going to stay in the hotel.” But my husband always wanted to hold my hand while we were walking. Sometimes I feel like he was doing it because I was so slow! He’s trying to speed me up. But it was very sweet. Just a little yanky.

SIGLER: For me, my husband’s arm was my cane for many years. Until I was willing to take a cane.

Related: Christina Applegate Says She ‘Blacked Out’ During Emmys Appearance but ‘Felt Really Beloved’ amid MS Journey

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John Russo

Christina Applegate and Jamie-Lynn Sigler

What are some of the challenges of your lives with MS that people don’t understand?

SIGLER: Go ahead, say it.

APPLEGATE: Well, you pee . . . in your pants. Because you probably can’t get to the bathroom in time. So yeah, diapers. Applegate pulls down the waistband of her jeans for a peek at her pair, which feature a floral design.

SIGLER: And we have a bone to pick with the designers, because who wants a beautiful flower on your diaper? It should really say “F— my life.”

APPLEGATE: But there are some benefits to MS. First of all, parking is awesome.

SIGLER: There could be a cure for MS, and I will not give up my handicap placard. We earned it!

APPLEGATE: And wheelchair seating— awesome. Pre-board— awesome. Wheelchair through the entire airport . . .

SIGLER: But I put my hat down. I’m embarrassed.

APPLEGATE I wear a mask. I don’t let people see.

Because of who you are, people might see you as a role model for MS.

APPLEGATE: Oh God, yeah. People say, “Can you talk at this thing?” And I’ll be like, “No, because I’m not inspiring.” I can’t do it.

SIGLER: Neither of us signed up to be poster children for this.

APPLEGATE: I’m not your girl yet. Give me a minute. This is new. Not even three years.

Christina, after Dead to Me, you said you may not act again. Do you still feel that way?

APPLEGATE: I don’t know. On Dead to Me, I had the support I needed, and it took all of myself to do it. I don’t think I’m going to have a set that’s going to be that accommodating again. So I’m afraid. I don’t know if anyone’s going to accept me now, the way I am. But to not be able to do it again, honestly it hurts my heart. I miss it . . . of course I miss it.

SIGLER: All I want her to do is remember how incredibly special she is. I tell her all the time, “You’re Christina motherf—ing Applegate!” So right now I’ll hold the big dreams for both of us.

Related: Jamie-Lynn Sigler Says She’s 'Living a Very Full Life' Despite Relapsing Multiple Sclerosis (Exclusive)

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John Russo

"This is our chance to give people a front-row seat to the reality of MS," says Applegate, with Sigler in L.A.

For now you have your podcast. Where did the idea for MeSsy come from?

APPLEGATE: We would talk on the phone for hours, laughing and crying. And then we were like, “This is helping us. Let’s record this.”

SIGLER: We started about a year ago recording every week. We’re sharing the deepest parts of ourselves — and I’m somebody that tried not to do that for a long time, so this has been healing.

APPLEGATE: I spent my career pretending to be someone else for everybody in the public eye. I don’t have time to be inauthentic anymore. It’s exhausting.

You talk about MS, but it’s not a podcast about your disease. Why not?

APPLEGATE: That would be boring. I don’t want to talk about it that much.

SIGLER: MS brought us together, but it’s not everything about us. It’s the starting point to a conversation about how to push through something that’s hard.

APPLEGATE: It’s about being honest. It’s okay to be afraid. It’s okay to be angry. At some point you’ve got to pull up your big-girl panties . . .

SIGLER: Or your Depends.

APPLEGATE: Pull up your Depends. In the meantime, we’ve helped each other so much, why not maybe help some other people?

SIGLER: It helps me to believe there’s something good we could do with this disease.

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