The Canadian-born actor Michael J. Fox achieved his big breakthrough when he began a run portraying Alex P. Keaton, on the hit NBC sitcom Family Ties in 1982. Until 1985 he went on to star in the Teen Wolf, High School U.S.A, Poison Ivy and Back to the Future.
This was the beginning of his brilliant career.
However, in 1991, when Fox was barely 30 and at the top of his success, he was medically treated for a twitch in his finger, and only one year later he received the devastating diagnosis of young-onset Parkinson’s disease (PD). This is a condition that is characterized by stiffness of the limbs and difficulty starting movements. In its early stages of this disease, this may show up as trouble running, etc. As the disease progresses, the patient may have a difficult time initiating activities such as dressing or walking.
Up to 20% patients suffer memory loss and 50% develop depression. Additionally, some people with Parkinson disease may even have hallucinations, hearing and seeing things that are not real.
Fox bravely concealed his condition while he continued working (playing Mike Flaherty, the fictional Deputy Mayor of New York, in the ABC sitcom Spin City).
In 1998 he finally went public with the announcement that he was suffering from the PD and started a second career as a spokesperson and activist for Parkinson’s research.
Fox takes the prescribed drug (Sinemet), which controls some of the milder symptoms, including, “the constant rigidity of his hips, ‘tapping’ feeling in his feet and shakes in one or both hands. He has also had brain surgery (on the thalamus) to try to relieve his tremors.
His reasons for going public about his condition is his aspiration to raise public awareness of Parkinson disease and raising funds for it. He sees every day as a gift and an opportunity to help other sufferers and his Foundation for Parkinson’s Research has done so much and has raised millions of dollars.
As Parkinson’s is a truly heartbreaking condition, because it is a progressive disease with no cure, everyone who suffers from it is essentially “losing the fight”.
However, despite his condition, Fox has continued on with his acting career representing a newscaster with Parkinson’s who retires from work and also playing a recurring role on the CBS drama The Good Wife as Louis Canning.
Something that is true for Michael J. Fox, is that he is a real person who is introduced in 2007 by the Time magazine as one of the 100 people “whose power, talent or moral example is transforming the world.”
He also has maintained his sense of humor and a forward outlook despite the difficulties of his medical condition.