Michael J. Fox Continues Push for Parkinson's Cure on CBS Sunday Morning
Photo: Actor and Advocate Michael J. Fox. Source: CBS News
From capturing everyone's hearts as Marty McFly from Back to the Future, to his hit role as Michael Flaherty in the television show "Spin City," it's safe to say that Michael J. Fox became a household name in the late 80's and early 90's. However, Michael J. Fox is also known to be facing a horrible disease that affects millions today in the United States: Parkinson's disease. Diagnosed at age 29, Fox had to step down from his acting career as the troubling symptoms began to become visible and affect his acting.
As Parkinson's disease is usually diagnosed when patients are over 60, early onset Parkinson's disease is extremely rare. According to CBS, only 1 in 10 individuals can develop early onset Parkinson's. During his interview with CBS Sunday Morning on Oct. 29th, Fox explained how shocking his diagnosis actually was: "Somebody's grandmother had it. I mean, it was not a thing that I noticed or thought about as this 29-year-old guy."
When he was 29, Michael J. Fox was at the height of his career. He had the three Back to the Future movies under his belt with Christopher Lloyd, movies that are forever-deemed as classics for generations to come. He was a hit actor on the silver screen for both of his roles in "Spin City" and "Family Ties." Not only was his diagnosis completely unexpected for him, but it also was for his audience, especially after the last episode of "Spin City" entitled "Goodbye."
Another shocking aspect of his diagnosis was the fact that his doctor said he only had 10 years left to work. There weren't that many options for Parkinson's patients, and this is even true for now. The neurological disease has yet to have a cure. Most Parkinson's patients take medications to treat it, such as levodopa. But even this medication, because of how much it controls the dopamine levels in patients, causes dyskinesia, which is a common side effect that is seen in many Parkinson's patients.
There was a long period before Fox went public with his diagnosis. His symptoms even started showing while he was filming "Spin City." During this period, he had come to terms with his diagnosis, learning the best way to actually deal with it. He called this his "selfish period of time" as he was just concerned for his own well-being.
But, in 1998, his "selfish period of time" ended and he testified before Congress because of the lack of promise that there was for others in his position. He stated, "As I began to understand what research might promise for the future, I became hopeful that I would not face the terrible suffering so many with Parkinson's endure. But I was shocked and frustrated to learn the amount of funding for Parkinson's research is so meager" (C-Span).
And then, in 2000, he took matters in his own hands. At this time, he founded his Michael J. Fox Foundation, which has raised over $750 million in donations. This foundation is dedicated to finding ways to reverse the disease and also how they could improve treatments for patients with the hope that someday they will have a cure.