Michael J. Fox Was Diagnosed With Parkinson’s At The Age Of 29

During an episode on Mike Birbiglia’s Working It Out podcast, Michael J Fox recently spoke out about his Parkinson’s disease battle. The Back to the Future actor said how his ailment made it difficult for him to recall his lines and forced him to shift the kind of jobs he took on. Fox got to prominence after starring in the 1980s TV sitcom Family Ties, and he announced his retirement in 2020.

Michael J Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at the age of 29 in 1991, and he exposed his condition to the world in 1998 to advocate for further Parkinson’s research. In 2000, he announced his resignation from Spin City and established The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

In a 2021 interview with CBS Mornings, Michael J Fox remembered the first time he and his wife, Family Ties co-star Tracy Pollan, heard of the illness. He said that was both the first and final occasion the pair sobbed over his condition:

“She had this dumped on her quite early in the marriage.” And the moment I told her I was recognizing it was the final time we grieved together over it. We haven’t wept since regarding Parkinson’s. We simply coped with it and went about our lives. But we both sobbed the first time.”

The actor said that they were first ignorant of the disease’s signs and consequences:

“We had no idea what to anticipate. We had no idea what would happen. We had no idea. Nobody knows when it will have a greater impact. More symptoms than I experienced, which was a twitching pinkie. But they [doctors] basically stated it was going to happen.”

The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, founded by the Teen Wolf actor, has been hailed as “the most trustworthy voice on Parkinson’s research in the world” by The New York Times.

A Look Into Michael J. Fox’s Parkinson’s disease struggle

During a recent visit on the Working It Out podcast, actor Michael J Fox discussed how he handled his work-life differently in recent years as his Parkinson’s condition progressed. He said that before his retirement, he grew pickier about projects because of his trouble remembering his lines due to the disease:

“When I did [The] Good Fight, a spinoff of [The] Good Wife, I couldn’t recall the lines.” “I was just blank, I couldn’t recall the lines.”

After a successful career spanning many decades, Fox described the experience as “weird.” He remembers his ability to quickly learn the screenplay while shooting Family Ties: Affair to Remember.

“[Family] Ties would hand me the screenplay and I’d say, ‘I’m in.’” Get off the phone, Mallory.’ And I knew it in an instant, and it remained that way for me. I’ve got 70 pages of dialogue on a [Brian] De Palma film, and knowing that a highly costly Steadicam shot hinges on my memorizing the lines — nary a drop of sweat on my forehead.”

However, after Michael J Fox failed to “get this line together” during the CBS spinoff, the scenario altered. He said that he encountered a “similar issue” when shooting Kiefer Sutherland’s program Designated Survivor.

He went on:

“It was this legal nonsense that I couldn’t understand.” But what was truly pleasant was that I didn’t freak out. I didn’t lose it. ‘Well, that’s it,’ I said. Now, let’s go on. Memorizing lines is an important part of this process, and I’m not good at it.’”

Michael J. Fox

 

The Hollywood Walk of Fame inductee then said how he recognized he couldn’t take on parts with many lines and chose to adapt his approach:

“I don’t take on projects with a lot of lines because I can’t execute them.” And it is what it is for whatever reason. I can’t recall the last five pages of the conversation. It’s impossible for me. It’s impossible. As a result, I went to the beach.”

Michael J Fox previously told People about various additional difficulties he had while coping with his condition:

“I’ve lost my short-term memory.” I’m ready to start [writing]. My guitar skills are horrible. My drawing is no longer excellent, my dancing was never fantastic, and acting is becoming more difficult. So it’s time to start writing. Fortunately, I like it.”

Michael J Fox previously discussed the physical problems associated with Parkinson’s disease in an interview with CBS News:

“I have a wheelchair that I use on occasion, and it still stinks.” I have difficulty walking to a restaurant and up the stairs to where my family is seated, maybe during supper. But then there’s my son, my three children, my wife, and our friends. And it’s just like, “Wow, that’s awesome.”

Michael J. Fox

 

While the actor was aware of the hurdles in his life, he was smart enough to realize what he could manage and what he couldn’t:

“I thought to myself, ‘Who am I to encourage others to brighten up?’” Who am I to convince folks everything will be fine? Who am I to encourage them to “have a cheerful attitude?” You actually need to go there and check it out and ask yourself, ‘Is that simply something I say?’ ‘Or is that something I think?’ Is it possible to survive if I believe something? And if I can live it, is it reasonable for me to urge, recommend, or prescribe to others that they do the same?”

Although Michael J Fox said that living with Parkinson’s disease is a “heavy thing,” he remains “Mr. Optimist” and remains upbeat about the situation.

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