Photo: Actor Michael J. Fox. Source: Metro News.
AARP, a non-profit organization, sat down with Michael J. Fox, who is not only known for his work on television and films like Back to the future, but also as a patient-advocate for Parkinson's disease. In the interview, Fox helped AARP learn more about the disease, even by answering some of their questions in a way that was easy for them to understand and comprehend his, along with other patients' struggle, with Parkinson's.
Fox shared to them that the symptoms of Parkinson's are generally funny, and that he cannot stop laughing at himself whenever he looks at his own symptoms.
One example is the event that he recalled for them in the interview:
In one particular morning, he entered the kitchen and was lucky to find a cup of coffee there. He decided to take the coffee and bring it to Tracy, his wife, who was actually at the table holding a paper. As he was trying to lift the cup, Tracy told him that she can help him get it. However, he didn’t agree since he felt that he was more than capable of lifting the cup to her. Luckily, he managed it, but every time he made a step towards Tracy, hot coffee splashed out of the cup onto his hands and onto the floor. By the time he reached her, the cup was almost empty.
Fox told the magazine that although he knows that he is in a bad situation, he cannot stop reacting positively. He knows that people think that he cannot lift even a cup of coffee, which is why he tries to prove them wrong. While he still realizes that he cannot do it exactly right, he knows that he could, which, to him, is all that matters.
Fox realized that he was suffering from Parkinson’s disease in the year 1991, but didn't reveal it o the public until 1998. While he has experienced a number of challenges brought on by the disease, it didn't stop him from advocating for it. Like other patients, he has been grappling with the ailment and also with other people’s reactions towards the condition. Fox also told AARP that he finds it challenging to deal with the disease and also with people’s perception.
He used to understand people’s mind from the way they looked at his eyes. He could see that they were not only feeling sorry for him, but they were also in fear. But, he didn’t want to let them down. This is why Fox assured them that he was actually doing great.
During the Interview, Fox recalled another known celebrity with Parkinson's disease, who had lived with this condition for about 32 years but died in June 2016. Fox narrated how Muhammad Ali called him at his home to tell him more about the ailment. While speaking with a raspy and paper-thin voice, Ali assured him they would fight the ailment together, and they would come out successfully.
Michael J. Fox’s struggles and how he didn’t let the disorder overthrow his life is quite inspiring. However, early detection of Parkinson’s might actually make a big difference for many patients.
Below are some essential facts that everyone should know about Parkinson's disease.
Factors that cause this ailment
Genes: Scientists have noticed that some gene mutations are capable of causing this ailment. This is not the main cause of the disease; however, it can present in those who have a family history of Parkinson's disease. Researchers have also realized that gene variations tend to increase the risks of PD.
Environmental triggers: Exposure to particular environmental triggers and toxins can increase the chances of someone suffering from this ailment.
What are the risk factors for Parkinson’s disease?
Heredity: People with family members with Parkinson’s disease, have high chances of suffering from the same ailment. People with several relatives suffering from the disease have higher chances of acquiring it as compared to those who have only one family member suffering from it.
Age and sex: Young people rarely suffer from this kind of an ailment. The risk for Parkinson's disease typically increases with age. Individuals usually develop this ailment at the age of about 60 years or older, but some are diagnosed as early as their twenties, which is called early onset Parkinson's disease. Michael J. Fox was diagnosed in his twenties. The results of a study done by GF Wooten and his friends also have indicated that Parkinson’s disease affects men more than women.
Exposure to toxins: People commonly exposed to chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides have high chances of developing this type of disease. Staying away from these types of chemicals can help one live a healthy life.
Thinking difficulties: Thinking difficulties are common problem among individuals suffering from Parkinson's. However, it tends to occur in the later stages of PD. An individual suffering from the ailment can also suffer from dementia. These cognitive problems are generally not that responsive to medications, but their progress can be delayed with mental engagement--like with puzzles, social interaction, and even reading and writing.
Swallowing problems: People suffering from Parkinson’s disease tend to experience swallowing problems. This problem becomes worse as the disease progresses. Slowed swallowing can make saliva to accumulate in the mouth of an individual, which can also make the patient drool.
Depression and related emotional changes: Depression is a common problem experienced by individuals with Parkinson’s disease. In fact, medical professionals advise patients to begin the treatment by treating depression. This will enable them to concentrate their energy in the treatment of the Parkinson’s disease.
Fear, loss of motivation, and anxiety are other emotional changes experienced by individuals with this condition. Doctors tend to give people with these feelings some medications for their overall health.
Sleep disorders: Most patients tend to experience sleep problems such as daytime sleepiness, waking up early, and waking up often throughout the night. Those with sleep problems can be treated using medications.
Bladder problems and constipation: Bladder problems is also a common issue among patients. A patient can experience pain when urinating, as well find it hard to control their urine. Patients also usually have a slower digestive tract, causing them to be constipated.
Blood pressure changes and smell dysfunction: In most cases, people with this condition tend to feel lightheaded or dizzy every time they stand up. This occurs owing to a sudden decline in blood pressure, a condition known as orthostatic hypotension. These patients also experience challenges with their sense of smell. They find it hard to identify particular odors. And, at times they cannot determine the difference between two or more odors.
Fatigue, pain, and sexual dysfunction: Individuals suffering from Parkinson’s disease do not only lose energy, but they also experience fatigue. Scientists have yet to find the clear cause of this disease, so they still have miles to go in research. In most cases, patients can also notice a decline in either sexual performance or desire. They also experience pain throughout their bodies or in particular parts of their bodies.
Michael J. Fox might have laughed at his own symptoms, but it doesn’t mean that he likes them. He laughed because he wanted to see the lighter side of his condition. After all, thinking negatively will only worsen his symptoms.
Parkinson’s disease had changed his life completely as things that were once so easy for him in the past now need more effort to accomplish. Yet, he didn’t allow the disorder to define his life or who he is, and he is now well-known for his work with the disease and as an inspiration for a number of Parkinson's disease.