The Revenge star is raising awareness about the disease that took her father's life

By Patrick Gomez
Updated February 05, 2015 02:25 PM
Credit: Getty

Revenge star Madeleine Stowe says she was just 5 years old when her family was rocked by her father’s multiple sclerosis diagnosis.

“I remember he deteriorated very rapidly,” the actress, 56, tells PEOPLE of her father, Robert. “By the time I was 6, he was on crutches. By the time I was 7, he was in a wheelchair.”

Stowe says she and her siblings grew up learning to tie their father’s shoes, dress him, and bathe him.

“That was the heartbreak he went through – losing his faculties,” she says. “I felt guilt. I felt empathy. I wanted him to survive.”

Though her father died when she was just 23, Stowe now hopes she can help MS patients and their caretakers cope with the disease in ways that her own family was not able to at the time.

Stowe has teamed up with Genzyme, the makers of a MS medication, for the campaign Lights, Camera, Take Action on MS.

The hope is that “[people] can not only learn their treatment options, but more importantly share their stories and connect with one another,” says Stowe. “I wish my father could have had some of these opportunities that are available now.”

For more of Madeleine Stowe’s touching story, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday