Michael J. Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1991, however kept it secret for seven years until he disclosed his condition to the public in 1998. According to Fox, before the disease was diagnosed he was living his life like an “army brat” and got lost in the Hollywood fun house.
He says he was obsessed with work and box-office success – so much so that his wife, Tracy, continuously advised him to be choosy with his work. He, however, he maintained that having a family necessitated his continued work, even if that meant lengthy periods away from home.
Fox started displaying symptoms of early-onset Parkinson’s disease in 1990 while shooting the movie ‘Doc Hollywood’, although he wasn’t actually diagnosed until the next year. Fox’s drinking habits changed, though, after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1991. Unlike his partying bachelor days, there was no occasion for celebration and camaraderie anymore. “Joyless and secretive, I drank to disassociate; drinking was now about isolation and self-medication,” he writes in his 2002 memoir, ‘Lucky Man’.
After his diagnosis, Fox’s drinking – which had been a problem for many years – saw him seek help and he was able to stop drinking altogether. For seven years he remained in a state of denial and depression. Little by little, the Parkinson’s disease that threatened to take everything away became the “gift” that ultimately made him aware of what he stood to lose.
He gradually came to terms with his diagnosis and started advocating on behalf of what he calls fellow “Parkies”. By 1996, Fox was settling into the kind of job he had long envisioned – living and working in New York on the hit TV series ‘Spin City’.
Of having Parkinson’s disease, Fox says: “I’m a dad, I’m a husband, I’m an activist, I’m a writer and I’m just a student of the world. This is one fact of my life, but it’s not the totality of my life. It doesn’t define me.”
He founded the Michael J. Fox Foundation in 2000 to support research that may find a Parkinson’s disease cure. His foundation has become the leading Parkinson’s fundraiser in the U.S., putting $140 million into research over the last eight years.
Fox is inspiring millions of people with a new book and hit TV special. According to his wife, his disease has changed him for better. He now gives more time to his family than he did before. In his words living with a chronic disease has helped him realize that every little moment is special. His journey to realize this, however, has been far from easy.
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