He’s been open about his ongoing battle with Parkinson’s disease ever since first going public with his diagnosis in 1998 – seven years after finding out himself – and now Michael J. Fox has revealed how the condition is continuing to impact his life amid a series of recent health scares.
The 57-year-old actor underwent a complex operation on his spinal cord last year, and now he has opened up on what made him decide to have the operation following several painful falls in an interview with The New York Times.
“I was having this recurring problem with my spinal cord. 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,” he explained to the news outlet.
While Fox was aware some of the falls may have been down to the Parkinson’s, he added that the spinal issue was completely separate and he eventually had no choice but to undergo the surgery.
While the operation went well, the Back to the Future actor had to undergo intense physical therapy afterwards, and just as he was recovering he seriously injured himself again.
“Last August I was supposed to go to work. I woke up, walked into the kitchen to get breakfast, misstepped and I went down,” he added. “I fractured the hell out of my arm. I ended up getting 19 pins and a plate. It was such a blow.”
Fox has always had an incredibly positive outlook on his health battles, having set up a foundation that has since raised US$800million (AU$1.1billion) to combat Parkinson’s disease, as well as continuing to act on screen – refusing to let it hamper his career.
However, he told the news outlet that recovering from his operation tested that positivity like never before.
“When I started to deal with the effects from the spinal surgery, I realised: 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,” he said.
Elsewhere in the interview, Fox hit out at Donald Trump and addressed worldwide backlash in 2015 over claims the US President mocked a disabled newspaper reporter – admitting seeing the reports was a “stab to the guts” for him and a lot of people he knows.
Fox continues to act amid his health issues, as well as writing three books and regularly speaking about his own experiences with the condition in order to raise awareness.
He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at just 29 but didn’t publicly reveal his diagnosis until seven years later. He famously sued a US magazine called Globe in 2016 for claiming he had suffered a huge physical and mental decline as a result of Parkinson’s. Globe was forced to print an apology that said, in part, that the actor continued to “live a fulfilling, successful life”.
Indeed, in that year he was nominated for an Emmy for his work on drama series The Good Wife, and as recently as earlier this week he was tweeting video clips from his new hit American political series, Designated Survivor, in which Kiefer Sutherland plays the US president, and Fox plays an attorney called Ethan West.
Speaking in March 2017 to the AARP’s magazine, he said that seeing the funny side of his illness helped him keep it in perspective.
“You deal with the condition, and you deal with people’s perception of the condition,” he explained. “It was easy for me to tune in to the way other people were looking into my eyes and seeing their own fear reflected back … I’d assure them that ‘I’m doing great’ — because I was. After a while, the disconnect between the way I felt and the dread people were projecting just seemed, you know, funny.”