Such Sad Michael J Fox News
It’s been 30 years since Michael J. Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a progressive neurological disorder for which there is no cure. In that time, he has created a beautiful family, added to his acting credits, and built an eponymous organization with a goal of finding a cure for the disease that has shaped his life. It’s a long way from Alex P. Keaton and Marty McFly and so many other characters Fox portrayed over the course of his acting career. As we wait for him to join a Zoom call to talk about the latest ambitious initiative for the Michael J. Fox Foundation, I wonder just how different the real-life Fox will be from the roles he played, so many of which were funny and heartwarming and helped to define our relationship with him.
Then, before my mind can wander much more, another square pops onto the screen. Fox has joined the call. In 2000, Fox created the Michael J. Fox Foundation to research and find a cure for Parkinson’s. The organization has since become the leading authority on the disease, and it is aggressively continuing its research into being able to predict who is at risk. Fox himself has become an expert too, talking easily about the importance of research (the foundation is expanding a clinical study aimed at identifying early symptoms), genetic markers, the role of science, and the need to focus on patients.
His key area of expertise, though, is more personal, like when he discusses the devastatingly real aspects of 30 years with the degenerative disease. “Parkinson’s patients can be incredibly lonely,” he says. “Lonely in crowded room. Lonely in Madison Square Garden. It’s because you’re isolated in your experience and you can’t relate it to anybody, and you have a million frustrations. Like someone says, ‘Slow down,’ and I say, ‘If I could slow down, I’d friggin’ slow down. I can’t slow down again. I am like I am.'” Tremors are a common symptom of Parkinson’s disease, and Fox has not dodged them. He also mentions at the beginning of our meeting that he’s just taken medication, so he’s not sure how his speech will be.
He needn’t have brought it up, though. His speaking is clear, with few instances of slurring – another common Parkinson’s symptom. Fox, a self-described optimist, is frank, forthright, and effortlessly funny. Right after he joined the Zoom, as we were getting settled, small talk turned to COVID and how this extended period of virtual meetings has affected his life. “I don’t know that everyone has legs for sure,” he deadpanned.
When asked about what he wishes he could have told himself 30 years ago, Fox talks about his wife, actress Tracy Pollan, and their four children, now adults, and living in the moment. He wishes he could have told himself to appreciate the time he has with his loved ones and not to take them for granted. He also wishes he could have told himself to not be so hard on himself and to not put so much pressure on himself to be perfect. He encourages others to live in the moment and appreciate their loved ones, a lesson he wishes he could have told himself 30 years ago.
Fox’s foundation has made significant strides in Parkinson’s research. The foundation has invested over $1 billion in research to date and is committed to finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease. Fox’s foundation is also committed to improving the lives of those living with Parkinson’s today. The foundation has invested in research to identify early markers of Parkinson’s disease, which will help in early diagnosis and treatment.