Michael J. Fox is a remarkable man. Relatively short in stature he is a giant in talent and influence. As a 55-year-old man, he is married to actress Tracy Pollan and they have four children. Tracy is his first and only wife. Emy (15) is the only child at home. Tracy and Michael married in 1988.
Fox is a native Canadian and while growing up he was an “Army brat.” His father retired from the military in 1971 and they lived in Burnaby, British Columbia. It is a suburb of Vancouver.
Born in 1961, Michael in his teens turned from being a hockey player, to the arts; creative writing, painting, playing the guitar, he soon recognized his affinity for acting. In 1979, at age 18, he moved to Los Angeles and his meteoric rise as an actor began. His recognition as an actor are too many to mention. Suffice it to say he has many including being the recipient of several lifetime achievement awards for accomplishments in acting.
By the way, he is also the bestselling author of three books.
Then came 1991 when Fox was thirty years old. He was diagnosed as being a victim of Parkinson’s Disease. He was also given the news that he would live at best, ten years.
The announcement was kept a secret until 1998. Then in 2000, Michael established the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson Research. According to the Foundation they have funded more than $700,000 for research.
Without a doubt, Michael J. Fox is a living icon. He has been nominated for 18 Emmys and 9 Golden Globes, but perhaps his greatest achievement is the way he deals with his debilitating disease.
Fox has been emotionally bothered for years that he was not a U.S.A. citizen. His wife and children are citizens. Canadian citizenship is rather unique. Those born in Canada are a Canadian citizen for life. Regardless if they live in another country or have citizenship elsewhere. He is quoted as saying, “I’ve been greatly bothered by living in America but not being able to vote.” This dilemma was recently eliminated when he swore the oath of allegiance to the USA and became a citizen. Welcome Michael.
As mentioned earlier Michael is not victimized by his disease. Parkinson disease has not dominated him.
In addition to his family and friends that have encouraged him, other Parkinson’s patients have sustained him. Among the very first to contact Michael was Muhammad Ali.
Ali died a year ago this June, 2016 at the age of 74. He had suffered from Parkinson for 32 years. He was 42 at the time.
Michael recalls vividly Ali’s call. “In his raspy, paper -thin voice, he said, ‘Ahhhh…. Michael now that you are in it, we’ll win this fight.’ What could I say, I was welling up, almost openly weeping.”
Doctors and friends reached out to him. His driving, positive attitude motivated researchers and became the motivators for his Foundation. Setbacks have been plentiful, but as one person says, “Fox takes any potential setback as an impetus to work harder.”
Michael is also working for Medicare and the Obama Health Plan. He speaks out on the $12,000 to $17,000 that Parkinson patients have to pay each year for medications. Without Health Insurance and Medicare, death would be certain.
When Michael visited Capitol Hill last February, he stated, “If the Affordable Care Act and even Medicare comes under the knife, that’s not political; that’s our lives.”
In evaluating the visible symptoms, he says, “They are distracting, but none of them hurt. The only real pain I get is in my feet.” Those who watch him scuffle and see his toes curl up in cramps, are very concerned for him.
Obviously, these symptoms have affected his acting performances.
His response to this evaluation is typical Fox. “I no longer have my stuff, the big bag of tricks I relied on in the past.” He refers to his ability to do a double take. “I’m more into the moment of what I’m doing. I don’t—I can’t—-have any expectations.”
He feels the pressure to “be in the moment” and to approach everyday as a new venture.” Michael’s perception of acting has deepened his respect for his own talent.
Michael has written an article entitled, “Six Rules For Surviving ADVERSITY.” First, is to EXERCISE. “We’ve learned it will prolong your ability to operate positively in the world.”
Second, PACING. “It helps one to think-the physical motion creates intellectual motion.”
Third, ACCEPTANCE. “It isn’t resignation. It frees me to accept my situation. My happiness is in direct proportion to my acceptance and in inverse proportion to my expectance.”
Fourth, HONESTY. “Don’t be silent or ashamed about illness. It is empowering to have people understand what you are going through- immediately I feel better.”
Fifth, OPTIMISM. “I hate it when I’m told, “You’ll give people false hope. To me, hope is informed optimism.”
Sixth, HUMOR. “I laugh (at my involuntary movements and the scenes they create). There are times I love my handicaps.”
Laughter IS the best medicine.
I am very appreciative to Andrew Corsello and AARP Magazine for his article on Michael J. Fox in the April/May issue. SEVERAL OF THE QUOTES IN MY ARTICLE ARE TAKEN FROM THE AARP ARTICLE.
Amen. Selah. So be it.