If there is one life lesson actress Brandee Evans has learned after becoming a full-time caregiver, it’s this: “Everyone is dealing with something,” she tells Parade. “Be gentle with them and with yourself.”

An accomplished dancer and choreographer, Evans has the kind of magnetic, can’t-take-your-eyes-off-her talent that has propelled her from the stage to the screen—including her star-making performance as Mercedes on the Starz original series P-Valley. But what many have not seen is the role she never auditioned for but was called to perform: that of caregiver for her chronically ill mother.

Evans was fresh out of college when her mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis—a progressive autoimmune disease that attacks the nervous system. But it wasn’t until Evans’ mother fell and was admitted to the hospital that she realized how much MS would change both of their lives. “All of a sudden, [my mother] couldn’t walk anymore. This woman who did everything on her own—she had her own place, drove her own car—all of that stopped,” she says.