Photo credit: Jeff Lipsky, for AARP Magazine
Michael J Fox, actor, movie and TV star, recently underwent spinal surgery. Known for his roles on Family Ties, Spin City, and Back to the Future, Fox has been an important spokesperson and patient-advocate for the Parkinson's disease community.
As a result of his young onset Parkinson’s, Fox has taken the lead in a big way to bring awareness to the disease and leveraged his celebrity status to help fund research for a cure. He was just 29 years old when he was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s in 1991. The very first symptom he noticed? Fox stated that he saw his pinky finger twitch and he wasn’t able to control the tremor.
His doctor’s gave him just “10 good years left”. However, Fox has surprised them all and is still going strong, while also keeping the same boyish charm of Alex P. Keaton, the young republican of Family Ties fame.
The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research is dedicated to finding a cure for Parkinson's disease through research as well as ensuring improved therapies for Parkinson's patients. The Michael J. Fox Foundation has also played a huge role in helping patients find a community to share their own stories and experiences.
In describing the foundation, Fox stated that what he had in mind was an agile startup style organization that did not have layer-upon-layer of bureaucracy. According to Fox, “There’s no existing blueprint for accomplishing what we want to do so we are inventing a new system to get the job done.”
The foundation grew rapidly into one of the largest non-profit research facilities for Parkinson’s in the world, having funded more than $700 million in research.
According to Fox’s representative, the Back to the Future star, who is 56-years-old, recently underwent surgery. He had a spinal surgery that was not related to his Parkinson’s, according to his spokesperson Leslie Sloane.
While any surgery is serious, this one was not part of his Parkinson’s treatment. He is doing great and taking advantage of the forced downtime.
The surgery is likely the reason why Michael cancelled his appearance at the Calgary Comic Expo in Canada from April 26 through the 29th. His cancellation was announced on social media and read: “Due to unforeseen circumstances in his schedule Michael J. Fox is not available to attend.”
The movie and television star has been dealing with Parkinson’s since he was first diagnosed in 1991. Originally, he did not share the diagnosis. In 2000, he went public with his battle after announcing his retirement from Spin City in January on its 100th episode. He explained that he had new priorities, including the launching of The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, which the New York Times has called "the most credible voice on Parkinson's research in the world."
His foundation has blazed a trail in the search for a cure for Parkinson's disease, and Michael is beloved as a patient advocate.
When it was learned he was having surgery, fans and the entire Parkinson Community became alarmed. It was soon announced, however, that his spinal surgery was unrelated to his Parkinson’s. Friends and fans everywhere let out a collective sigh of relief.
Back in March of 2017, Fox was on the cover of the AARP magazine. When asked how he deals with the trials and tribulations of Parkinson’s he said he laughs nonstop at himself and his symptoms. Things like, trying to deliver a cup of coffee to his wife of 30 years, Tracy Pollan, became a laugh-a-thon fiasco. He recalled in the interview how he was so determined to not allow the coffee to slosh everywhere, even though it did so anyway. While some people would get frustrated or angry, Fox laughs about it instead.
“The truth is that on most days, there comes a point where I literally can’t stop laughing at my own symptoms,” he said.
Michael says he owes everything to Tracey. "Tracy wasn't sentimental or romantic about it at all," he says. "No terror. No exhibition of grief and fear.” He recalled how Tracey explained it, she told him: There’s a stone in your shoe. We'll do what we can until you can get it out. In the meantime, if you limp with the stone, that's alright. You can hold my hand, and we'll get over that.
Most recently Fox had a guest spot on "Designated Survivor" after a recurring role on "The Good Wife." His acting career is still going strong, despite the challenges he faces everyday. And, we look forward to see what else Fox accomplishes in the near future: For himself, and for Parkinson's disease.