Michael J Fox calls his Parkinson's disease a 'gift' 33 years after diagnosis
Michael J Fox has been praised for his ‘incredible attitude’ when discussing his Parkinson’s disease diagnosis, which he described as a ‘gift’.
In 1991 when he was just 29 years old, the actor – best-known as the star of the beloved Back To The Future film franchise – was diagnosed with the long-term neurological condition.
He founded The Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research in 2000, which explains that Parkinson’s can ‘cause tremor, slowness, stiffness, walking and balance problems’, with symptoms ‘slowly worsening over time’.
On Tuesday February 6, the 62-year-old appeared on BBC Breakfast to talk about his diagnosis and his 2023 documentary Still: A Michael J Fox Movie, which won four awards at this year’s Emmys and is nominated at the Baftas.
Describing his condition as ‘hard’ and ‘a bit more than annoying’, Michael said: ‘It can be devastating for some people’.
He explained how his documentary tells ‘stories about resilience and hope’, as ‘an incurable optimist meets an incurable disease’, referring to the way in which he has approached his diagnosis for more than three decades.
What are the symptoms of Parkinson's disease? The NHS lists the three main symptoms of Parkinson’s as:
• Involuntary tremors of particular parts of the body Someone with Parkinson’s can also develop other symptoms, such as: Most of those who are diagnosed with Parkinson’s are aged 50 or older, but younger people have been known to suffer from it as well. There is currently no cure for Parkinson’s disease. Treatment can typically involve medication, supportive therapy like occupational therapy, physiotherapy, and in some cases brain surgery.
In the interview with the BBC, Michael recalled how big moments in his life happened in very close proximity to each other, as he married his wife Tracy Pollan in 1988, three years before his diagnosis.
The couple’s first child, a son named Ssam, was born in 1989, while his father died of a heart attack in 1990.
The actor outlined how he ‘faced challenges’ that he didn’t anticipate at the time, and addressed the fact that he didn’t reveal his condition publicly until 1998, seven years after his diagnosis.
‘I didn’t know what I was going to do. I didn’t know how it was going to manifest, and I didn’t know what to expect. And no one could really tell me what to expect,’ he shared.
For 24 years, Michael has been helping to make a positive impact on the lives of people with Parkinson’s disease, with The Michael J Fox Foundation saying that it is ‘dedicated to finding a cure’.
The organisation has an ‘aggressively funded research agenda’, and is also ‘ensuring the development of improved therapies for those living with Parkinson’s today’.
Michael described his Parkinson’s as a ‘gift’, as it allowed him to help others.
‘I would say it’s a gift. People would look at me and go, “It’s the gift that keeps on taking,” but it’s a gift,’ he said in the interview.
‘I realised I had to turn it into something and make it some positive thing that affected other people in a positive way. So I did, I started a foundation, but it took me a long time to get there.’
One woman called Sarah showered Michael with praise, writing on X: ‘What an incredible attitude from such a talented man. No self-pity, just an outpouring of positivity and an urge to do something for others. Total respect.’
BBC Breakfast airs every day from 6am on BBC One and BBC iPlayer.
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