Michael J Fox Shares An Update On His Parkinsons Disease
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The actor said he stays optimistic about his future, despite the lack of a cure for Parkinson’s.
Fox reveals he had a benign tumor removed from his spine in 2018 and had a bad fall after, leaving him with a broken arm.
Fans of Michael J. Fox know him as the lighthearted, funny, and talented actor behind beloved characters like Marty McFly and Mike Flaherty. Now, in a new interview with AARP Magazine, the actor opens up about how his Parkinsons diagnosis has forced him to end acting for good, how he stays positive, and the impact the diagnosis has had on his everyday life.
The Back to the Future star was diagnosed with Parkinsons Disease 30 years ago but has fought hard to continue his acting career. And, it wasn’t until recently, when Fox found it was impacting his memory and speech, that the star decided it was time to step back from taking roles.
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Fox has taken the diagnosis with optimism and grace. When asked in the interview how he was feeling, Fox responded, Above average, for a brain-damaged man.
But the Family Ties actor isnt always overwhelmingly positive. Parkinsons has taken a toll on his life and careerin the last 30 years, hes seen his physical being decline in more ways than one.
Michael J Fox Reflects On Life With Parkinson’s In ‘no Time Like The Future’
The Family Ties star was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s disease in 1991. He says that if he doesn’t know if he can do something, he fakes it a strategy that works 80 percent of the time.
TERRY GROSS, HOST:
This is FRESH AIR. I’m Terry Gross. My guest, Michael J. Fox, has written a new memoir that’s about his recent life years after he was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s disease back in 1991 when he was 29. Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological disorder which results in tremors, muscle spasms, balance and coordination problems, diminishment of movement and can also affect mood, sleep and lead to fatigue. Michael J. Fox became famous in his 20s, before Parkinson’s, for his role on the hit sitcom “Family Ties” as a young conservative who went in the opposite direction of his liberal parents and idolized President Reagan.
Michael J. Fox, welcome to FRESH AIR. Congratulations on your book. It’s a pleasure to have you back on the show.
MICHAEL J FOX: Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here.
GROSS: The pandemic started just in time for you to write your epilogue. And you write that now everyone is experiencing something you’ve experienced, which is protecting other people from yourself. Can you explain how that applies to you?
GROSS: I – so I think also, like, there’s a sense of vulnerability that you’ve probably felt that everybody is feeling now.
GROSS: Right. You know, what are the limitations you face now physically?
GROSS: What about speech?
Michael J Foxs New Memoir Finds Optimism In The Face Of Adversity
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Canadian-born-and-raised actor Michael J. Fox charts his medical and spiritual travails in a new memoir, No Time Like the Future: An Optimist Considers Mortality.Mark Seliger/Raincoast Books
Michael J. Foxs descent from his trademark optimism began on the tiles of his kitchen floor. He was in too much pain for an immediate existential crisis, but soon that positivity he titled his first memoir Lucky Man, after all began to waver. It wasnt just the early-onset Parkinsons disease diagnosed at 29 when he was at the top of his Hollywood game that had led to the disastrous tumble in his Manhattan apartment. But another, unrelated grave medical issue: a tumour on his spine. Its removal earlier that year had been extremely complex his recovery long and arduous. Through months of rehabilitation, one explicit instruction was emphasized: Just dont fall.
There in his kitchen, alone and with a badly broken arm which he knew would have severe consequences he hit a low point in more ways than one.
The story is recounted in Foxs new memoir, No Time Like the Future: An Optimist Considers Mortality. The book charts Foxs recent medical and spiritual travails the fall from optimism and the return. If youre looking for something to give you a little perspective on your own woes at the moment this book might do it for you.
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He Took Inspiration From Quentin Tarantino
He writes, DiCaprio, playing a cowboy actor whos seen better days, keeps screwing up his lines … Furious at himself over his chronic inability to remember and deliver the dialogue… berates himself viciously over his abject failure. I feel his pain. Ive obviously been there.
But weighed against everything else in my life, I dont find it worthy of self-excoriation … My work as an actor does not define me.
Despite several setbacks and scares, Fox remains committed to advice his late father-in-law Stephen Pollan gave him, With gratitude, optimism becomes sustainable.
Keith Richards And More Famous Friends
Unfortunately, Fox was dealing at the time with an excruciatingly painful pinched sciatic nerve and had to cut the trip short. Oh god, Keith Richards looks better than I feel, he thought.
Fox also writes at length about hitting the links with his golfing buddies, author Harlan Coben and ABC News George Stephanopoulos hanging out with former Sen. Harry Reid and working with the likes of Larry David.
Keith Richards on his X-Pensive Winos reissue, a new Rolling Stones album and living in American during COVID.
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Finding Optimism With Michael J Fox
Renowned actor and Parkinsons disease research advocate talks about his new book.
In his new book No Time Like the Future: An Optimist Considers Mortality, actor and advocate Michael J. Fox, talks about how his signature optimism in the face of Parkinsons disease was challenged after a dangerous fall in his kitchen.
On Thursday night, Fox, known for his roles in TV shows Family Ties, Spin City, and the movie series Back to The Future shared that challenge and how he has come out for the better because of it through a virtual event with the Marthas Vineyard Book Festival.
The virtual talk, which had more than 2,400 listeners, featured novelist and Foxs close friend Harlan Coben asking Fox, a seasonal resident of Marthas Vineyard since 1988, about some of his inspirations behind the new book.
Fox spoke candidly, and with a dash of dry wit, about his journey of being diagnosed with Parkinsons in 1991 at the age of 29, to getting risky surgery on his spine, and to recently suffering from a severely broken arm.
Fifty-nine is the average age of someone diagnosed with Parkinsons and I had it for 29 years by the time I was 58, Fox, who is now 59, said.
Foxs inspiration for writing the book began with this extraordinary series of medical issues, after which he began to ask himself, who am I to be an optimist?
Its a wonderful combination, Fox joked.
After a successful six-hour surgery, Fox spent several months learning how to walk again.
Michael J Fox: Every Step Now Is A Frigging Math Problem So I Take It Slow
After living with Parkinsons for 30 years, the actor still counts himself a lucky man. He reflects on what his diagnosis has taught him about hope, acting, family and medical breakthroughs
The last time I spoke to Michael J Fox, in 2013, in his office in New York, he was 90% optimistic and 10% pragmatic. The former I expected the latter was a shock. Ever since 1998, when Fox went public with his diagnosis of early-onset Parkinsons disease, he has made optimism his defining public characteristic, because of, rather than despite, his illness. He called his 2002 memoir Lucky Man, and he told interviewers that Parkinsons is a gift, albeit one that keeps on taking.
I believe in all the hopeful things I said before. But you feel an idiot because you said youd be fine and youre not
I ask how he felt during the 2016 campaign when Trump mocked the New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski, who has a disability. When you see your particular group mocked, its such a gut punch. Its so senseless and cheap. Theres no way I get up in the morning and mock orange people, he says, and then makes the grin that, for those of us who grew up watching him in the 1980s and 90s, is our Proustian madeleine.
Because youre not a patient to her, youre her husband. Exactly, he says, with a relieved grin: I have understood him.
If you show a kid today Back To The Future, they get it. Its this thing thats timeless
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Michael J Fox Mixes Candor Humor And Hope In His Heartfelt New Memoir
When Michael J. Fox told the world, in 1998, that he had been fighting Parkinsons disease for the past seven years, it felt devastating to me in many ways. For one thing, like a lot of people of my generation, I had been a big fan of the hit 80s TV sitcom Family Ties obsessed with Alex P. Keaton without fully understanding the implications of his role as a weird Reagan-stanning surly Republican.
Foxs disclosure was doubly shocking as not only was he just 29 when he was diagnosed, he was also not the kind of celebrity who seemed vulnerable at all. To imagine him compromised in any crisis seemed impossible. For a while I had no idea how to process his struggles, though I was amazed he was still surviving as the years went by. I assumed wealth and celebrity were part of what kept him alive. Those privileges might have been a piece of it, but it wasnt until I got sick myself, with late-stage Lyme disease, that I realized how much ones attitude can also factor into ones health, and that while a positive outlook cant save you, a very strong drive to live certainly counts for something.
Porochista Khakpour is the author of the memoir Sick, the novels Sons and Other Flammable Objects and The Last Illusion, and most recently the essay collection Brown Album: Essays on Exile and Identity.
No Time Like the Future: An Optimist Considers Mortality
When It Comes To Living With Uncertainty Michael J Fox Is A Pro
In his fourth memoir, No Time Like the Future, the actor and activist opens up about his newfound, uniquely upbeat brand of pessimism.
Two years ago, Michael J. Fox had surgery to remove a benign tumor on his spinal cord. The actor and activist, who had been living with Parkinsons disease for nearly three decades, had to learn to walk all over again.
Four months later, he fell in the kitchen of his Upper East Side home and fractured his arm so badly that it had to be stabilized with 19 pins and a plate. Mired in grueling, back-to-back recoveries, he started to wonder if he had oversold the idea of hope in his first three memoirs, Lucky Man, Always Looking Up and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future.
I had this kind of crisis of conscience, Fox said during a video interview last month from his Manhattan office, where pictures of Tracy Pollan, his wife of 31 years, and his dog, Gus, hung behind him. I thought, what have I been telling people? I tell people its all going to be OK and it might suck!
His solution was to channel that honesty into a fourth memoir, No Time Like the Future, which Flatiron is publishing on Nov. 17. For an example of his new outlook, consider his perspective on traveling by wheelchair.
The only pause in momentum comes when he talks about Pollan. The book is a love letter to Tracy. She really got me through he swallows, shakes his head, holds up a hand everything.
Book Excerpt: ‘no Time Like The Future’
Im going down. Its a flash fall. Vertical to horizontal in a blink. I twist my head to save my face from collision with the kitchen tile. What the hell just happened? I rise up on my right elbow, expecting to shift my weight to the left and push up onto my feet. Surprise: I cant feel my left arm. As my shock subsides, its clear that I need help. Slithering forward on my belly toward the wall-mounted phone, I am a one-armed commando crawling under the table, across the floor, and through a thicket of chair legs, dragging a sandbag of a left arm that remains unresponsive and unavailable.
The day before the accident, I flew back to Manhattan from Marthas Vineyard, in the middle of our summer vacation. Tracy was concerned about me staying in New York by myself. I was still what we would both describe as a little wobbly on my feet. But Id been asked to do a one-day cameo on a Spike Leeproduced movie, up in the Bronx, and it offered a brief window of independence. Ill be back in two days, I promised. Save me a lobster.
Schuyler, one of our twenty-five-year-old twin daughters, also needed to head back to the city for work, so we traveled home together. She lingered with me for dinner, take-out pasta at the kitchen table. Polishing off the last forkful, she had a question.
How do you feel about going back to work?
I dont know, I guess I feel normal again.
But are you nervous, Dood? All of my kids call me that. Not Dude, Dood.
New Book By Celebrity Actor Combines His Humility And Outlook On The Future
Robyn Spizman Gerson is a New York Times best-selling author of many books, including When Words Matter Most. She is also a communications professional and well-known media personality, having appeared often locally on Atlanta and Company and nationally on NBCs Today show. For more information go to www.robynspizman.com.
The entire world knows actor Michael J. Fox, who will appear next week with his latest memoir at the Book Festival of the MJCCA. From his years seen on the family-favorite family sitcom Family Ties as Alex P. Keaton to the role of Marty McFly, the teenage sidekick of Doc Brown in the blockbuster movie Back to the Future, Fox won a place in our hearts at an early age. Add characters like Mike Flaherty in Spin City and guest appearances on television shows including Curb Your Enthusiasm. Add winning five Emmys, four Golden Globes, one Grammy, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, the Peoples Choice Award and GQ Man of the Year, Fox is certainly a beloved celebrity. Above all of his Hollywood accomplishments, his most meaningful role is his passionate and purposeful advocacy for Parkinsons disease.
As Fox was finishing writing this book, COVID hit. He ends his admitted hyper-focused book by acknowledging the state of the world we live in, which has imploded. He joins the reader noting that now were all facing unknowns.
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Family Ties Original Cast To Reunite For Benefit Special
The eternal optimist.
Michael J. Fox has looked on the bright side for the better part of his 30-year battle with Parkinsons disease.
And despite his debilitating health condition, he recently admitted that hes perfectly fine with not finding a cure.
In a profile for AARP magazine, the 60-year-old explained that while he doesnt fear death, hes happy living his life.
As I wrote in my latest book , Im now out of the lemonade business, the Family Ties star said. Fox announced last year that he was taking a second retirementfrom a acting.
Im really blunt with people about cures. When they ask me if I will be relieved of Parkinsons in my lifetime, I say, Im 60 years old, and science is hard. So, no,’ Fox continued. I am genuinely a happy guy. I dont have a morbid thought in my head I dont fear death. At all.
He added that the death of his father-in-law put his own mortality in perspective. But as I came through that darkness, I also had an insight about my father-in-law, who had passed away and always espoused gratitude and acceptance and confidence, the Back to the Future actor said. I started to notice things I was grateful for and the way other people would respond to difficulty with gratitude. I concluded that gratitude makes optimism sustainable.
Fox was diagnosed with Parkinsons in 1991 when he was 29, during the filming of his rom-com Doc Hollywood. He disclosed his medical battle in 1998 after the press heckled him into doing so.
Later Career And His Retirement
Spin City ran from 1996 to 2002 on American television network ABC. The show was based on a fictional local government running New York City, originally starring Fox as Mike Flaherty, a Fordham Law School graduate serving as the Deputy Mayor of New York. Fox won an Emmy award for Spin City in 2000, three Golden Globe Awards in 1998, 1999, and 2000, and two Screen Actors Guild Awards in 1999 and 2000. During the third season of Spin City, Fox made the announcement to the cast and crew of the show that he had Parkinson’s disease. During the fourth season, he announced his retirement from the show. He announced that he planned to continue to act and would make guest appearances on Spin City . After leaving the show, he was replaced by Charlie Sheen, who portrayed the character Charlie Crawford.
In 2004, Fox guest starred in two episodes of the comedy-drama Scrubs as Dr. Kevin Casey, a surgeon with severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. The series was created by Spin City creator Bill Lawrence. In 2006, he appeared in four episodes of Boston Legal as a lung cancer patient. The producers brought him back in a recurring role for season three, beginning with the season premiere. Fox was nominated for an Emmy Award for best guest appearance.
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