Emma Caulfield has quietly been coping with MS for over a decade, but that hasn’t put her on the sidelines. The WandaVision actress revealed that she’s been living with Multiple Sclerosis since her 2010 diagnosis in a new interview with Vanity Fair. She also explained why she’s continued working and announced her return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Kathryn Hahn’s upcoming Disney+ series Agatha: Coven of Chaos.
Emma, who is known for her role opposite Sarah Michelle Gellar on Buffy The Vampire Slayer from 1998 to 2003, remembers her issues starting out of nowhere. “Once upon a time, I had zero health problems,” she told VF.
“Back in 2010, I was working on [executive producer] Marti Noxon’s Gigantic, and prior to starting that job, I woke up one morning and the left side of my face felt like there were a million ants crawling on it. That feeling when you’ve sat in a position too long?.. The feeling’s gone and it’s coming back like a rush of blood. Then it just sort of went, I wouldn’t say completely numb, because I could still scratch it and feel my nails. But it was extremely dull. I went to my acupuncturist, and he was like, ‘I don’t know, man. Maybe you have Bell’s palsy?’”
MS symptoms can manifest in a number of ways, often making it hard to diagnose. The disease causes the immune system to attack the protective covering around nerve fibers, in turn causing major communication issues between the brain and the rest of the body. Symptoms range from numbness to tingling, mood changes, pain, paralysis, and more.
As the suggestion of her acupuncturist, she visited a neurologist who explained she was a clear case of MS. “I had five minutes down or whatever. And he was like: ‘You have MS.’ Just like that,” she recalled.
“It was like an out-of-body experience. I’m like, ‘No, that’s not possible.’ I’m like, ‘What are you talking about?’ He was very matter-of-fact about it. ‘Well, you can get a second opinion…’ It was literally a kind of nightmare…. It turns out it was something major. Then I was like, ‘I’ve got to go to work now.’ What do I do?”
At first, the star kept her diagnosis from people she was working with, not wanting “to give anyone the opportunity to not hire me.” She said, “There are already plenty of reasons to not hire people, reasons most actors don’t even know. ‘You look like my ex-girlfriend… You’re too short. You’re too tall. You look mean. You look too nice. You don’t have the right color eyes.’ I knew in my bones that if you talk about this, you’re just going to stop working. That’s it.”
She came to the decision to go public with her MS after learning about how it could affect her daughter, who is 6. “I’m so tired of not being honest,” she explained. “And beyond that, my daughter has changed my perspective, as I think anybody who is a parent can attest.”
Emma added, “I know that she has a 30% greater chance of coming down with this, just luck of the draw for her. She’s 6. She’s just started first grade. … It got me thinking about her and how full of joy and active she is, and she’s just such a remarkable little creature.”
For now, the actress is staying busy and staying positive, telling the magazine, “OK right now.” “Truthfully,” she said. My attitude is not crumbling under the fear of ‘what if’ or ‘what can,’ or ‘what has’ for other people. I just have to keep going.”