The actor was first diagnosed with the disease in 1991 and is still suffering from it... but with a more upbeat attitude.
Actor Michael J. Fox's role as Alex P. Keaton on the TV series Family Ties made him a household name. Starring in the hit series Back to the Future as the charismatic Marty McFly, who is full of raw energy, only made his name grow bigger in the industry.
Not only was his career thriving but also his personal life, as he married his Family Ties co-star Tracy Pollan in 1988. He was waiting for the arrival of their first kid in 1989 when trouble knocked on his door. It was on the sets of romantic comedy Doc Hollywood in 1991 that he first noticed a “twitch” in his left pinkie, he told People back in 1998.
It took just six months for it to start affecting his shoulders, which subsequently stiffened. A simple diagnosis by the doctor revealed that he had Parkinson’s disease. Now years later, he has spoken about the days he questioned his optimism.
In 2018, the 59-year-old underwent surgery for a noncancerous tumor that was painfully growing in his back. He told People that not only was surgery risky but if it wasn't done, it had some dire consequences. “I was heading for paralysis if I didn’t get it operated on." He said that the tumor “was constricting the [spinal] cord, so they had to be very careful in removing it so they wouldn’t do further damage."
Once the surgery was done, the actor started walking on his feet within four months. After a vacation with his family, he was back in his apartment in order to shoot a cameo the next day. But as the next day came, the actor faced another problem. He fell down in his kitchen and broke his arm.
Describing it as the "darkest moment" of his life he said, “I just snapped. I was leaning against the wall in my kitchen, waiting for the ambulance to come, and I felt like, ‘This is as low as it gets for me.’ It was when I questioned everything. Like, 'I can't put a shiny face on this. There's no bright side to this, no upside. This is just all regret and pain.'"
For once, Fox felt completely helpless. His usual optimism had vanished somewhere in the midst of his hopelessness. “Parkinson’s, my back, my arm... it still didn’t add up to moving the needle on the misery index compared to what some people go through,” he said, and continued, “I thought, 'How can I tell these people, "Chin up. Look at the bright side. Things are going to be great”?’” He has detailed the story in his upcoming fourth memoir, No Time Like the Future.
However, confined to his bed, the Teen Wolf actor found the key to his lacking optimism. He said, "Optimism is really rooted in gratitude," and continued, "Optimism is sustainable when you keep coming back to gratitude, and what follows from that is acceptance. Accepting that this thing has happened, and you accept it for what it is."
"It doesn't mean that you can't endeavor to change. It doesn't mean you have to accept it as a punishment or a penance, but just put it in its proper place. Then see how much the rest of your life you have to thrive in, and then you can move on," he continued.
As the Stuart Little actor is going to turn 60 next month, he's liking the time he's spending at home with his wife, Tracy Pollan, and kids, son Sam, 31; twins Aquinnah and Schuyler, both 25; and daughter Esmé, 19. “It’s not that I wasn’t sincere before," he says, "but my gratitude is deeper now, from having gotten through the darkest times."
Even though his life isn't free of Parkinson's, he likes to focus on "having a really good time." Echoing his 1998 words, where he said, "I can be in this situation and still love life as much as I do," he told People, "I love being with my family. I love being with Tracy. I love that I don’t do a lot of useless stuff that I used to do, because I don’t have the energy or the time."
"I’m grateful that I went through a crucible there in my late 50s. I figured some of this crap out finally, and it didn’t haunt me into my 70s and 80s,” he concluded.
Fox has raised more than $900 million for the research to find a cure for Parkinson’s, according to Biography. He is not the only one affected by this disease, stars like Muhammad Ali, Neil Diamond, Jesse Jackson, Ozzy Osbourne, Linda Ronstadt also had or have the same.