‘Some days are a struggle’: Michael J Fox describes the impact of his Parkinson’s symptoms

Michael J Fox opens up about his Parkinson’s diagnosis

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The Back to the Future actor, 60, was diagnosed with the condition back in the 1990s. Although his disease has advanced over the years, alongside other health issues, Fox remains upbeat and has gratitude. He says he is a “freak” for being able to fight off the disease for such a long time.

Fox, who has four children and has been happily married to his wife for 33 years, said: “If you don’t think you have anything to be grateful for, keep looking. Because you don’t just receive optimism.

“You can’t wait for things to be great and then be grateful for that. You’ve got to behave in a way that promotes that.

“Still, it’s hard to explain to people how lucky I am, because I also have Parkinson’s. Some days are a struggle.

“Some days are more difficult than others. But the disease is this thing that’s attached to my life — it isn’t the driver.”

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He was first diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1991 and told he had just a decade left of acting. Despite the prognosis, he appeared in a few TV shows like The Good Wife in 2009.

“I’m kind of a freak. It’s weird that I’ve done as well as I have for as long as I have,” he told the AARP magazine.

But in recent years, the star’s health has deteriorated – because of Parkinson’s and other health issues. He has been forced to retire from his craft.

In 2018, Fox had surgery to remove a rapidly growing tumour on his spinal cord which required him to relearn how to walk after this.

Four months after the surgery, he also slipped and fell in his family’s New York City Apartment, which damaged his arm. He was given a metal plate and 19 screws to repair the injury.

On top of this, his Parkinson’s disease has also continued to affect his speech. Last year, his speech became a massive burden on his work.

Talking about the progression of it, he said: “I reached the point where I couldn’t rely on my ability to speak on any given day, which meant I couldn’t act comfortably at all anymore.”

There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, which is caused by the loss of nerve cells in the brain, reducing the amount of dopamine in the brain.

“And I started to notice things I was grateful for and the way other people would respond to difficulty with gratitude. I concluded that gratitude makes optimism sustainable.”

Parkinson’s has a wide range of physical and mental symptoms.

According to the NHS, the other physical symptoms, other than the loss of speech which Fox identified, are:

  • A loss of a sense of smell
  • Peeing problems such as needing to pee during the night frequently
  • Difficulty becoming sexually aroused and achieving an orgasm
  • Excessive sweating.

The condition affects one in five hundred people and most people with the condition develop symptoms over the age of 50.

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