Michael J. Fox opened up about coping with a new set of serious health problems related to his Parkinson’s disease, which resulted in him falling often and even requiring spinal surgery.
The beloved 57-year-old actor opened about his recent struggles and much more in an interview with The New York Times Magazine published Friday.
The Back to the Future and Family Ties star was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1991 but did not make it public until 1998. He kept acting in a slew of films and TV shows as he coped with the disease. He also became one of the most vocal advocates for finding a cure to the disease, with the foundation he started raising $800 million to date.
But as of late, Fox’s health has taken a scary turn for the worse, he told The Times.
“I was having this recurring problem with my spinal cord,” said Fox. “I was told it was benign but if it stayed static I would have diminished feeling in my legs and difficulty moving. Then all of a sudden I started falling — a lot. It was getting ridiculous. I was trying to parse what was the Parkinson’s and what was the spinal thing. But it came to the point where it was probably necessary to have surgery. So I had surgery, and an intense amount of physical therapy after. I did it all, and eventually people asked me to do some acting. Last August I was supposed to go to work. I woke up, walked into the kitchen to get breakfast, misstepped and I went down. I fractured the hell out of my arm. I ended up getting 19 pins and a plate. It was such a blow.”
Fox explained that he was trying to push himself too far, too fast after serious surgery. “It’s because I had certain optimistic expectations of myself, and I’d had results to bear out those expectations, but I’d had failures too. And I hadn’t given the failures equal weight,” he said.
Still, the actor believes in a cure and will continue doing all he can to aid his foundation in discovery.
“There’s a new drug that’s been approved that’s like a rescue inhaler for when you freeze. Because freezing is a very real thing for Parkinson’s patients. I could be sitting here with my foot on fire and a glass of water over there on the table and all I’d be able to do is think about how good it would feel to pour that water on my foot. Treatments for that can make a huge difference in people’s lives. Now, if we can prophylactically keep Parkinson’s symptoms from developing in a person, is that a cure? No. Would I take it? Yes.”
Fox was asked if the Trump administration’s skepticism toward science has affected his foundation’s research. “We have a working relationship with the government. Trump is not sitting around thinking about Parkinson’s. But one thing that angered me is when he mocked that reporter,” he replied.
At a 2015 campaign rally in South Carolina, Trump appeared to mockNew York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski who has the joint condition arthogryposis.
“That was a stab to the guts. Not just for me, but for people I know and work with, who try so hard to overcome other people’s atavistic aversion to anybody that moves differently,” Fox recalled. “So I thought, Do I say something in response? Then I thought, People already know Trump is an [expletive].”
Fox is currently working on a new book, which was inspired by last year’s scare. “My health issues last year brought me to places where I started to say, ‘Was it false hope I’d been selling? Is there a line beyond which there is no consolation?’ For me to get to that place is pretty dark,” he admitted.
He continued, “I realized that the understanding I’d reached with Parkinson’s was sincere but risked being glib. I’d made peace with the disease but presumed others had that same relationship when they didn’t. Then when I started to deal with the effects from the spinal surgery, I realized: Wow, it can get a lot worse. Being in a position where I couldn’t walk and had health aides 24 hours a day, was I still prepared to say, ‘Hey, chin up!’ Parkinson’s, it’s a strange test.”