Michael J. Fox's Battle With Parkinson's
- “Back to the Future” star Michael J. Fox, who has been battling with Parkinson’s for decades, admits he doesn’t “fear” death as he continues living life to the fullest with the disease.
- In 1991, when Michael J. Fox was just 29 years old, he was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s, a diagnosis he decided to keep private for seven years prior to going public with the news in 1998.
- Since speaking out about the disease, Fox has become a spokesperson for Parkinson’s awareness, pushing for more research and funding.
- Fox has admitted that instead of feeling upset about his Parkinson’s diagnosis, he instead felt motivated, according to Town & Country. It’s great to see Fox staying positive through adversity, however, it’s important to know that struggling with disease does not look the same for everyone.
- Dr. William Breitbart, chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, tells SurvivorNet that when he sees patients dealing with some sort of life-changing or even life-threatening challenge, such as a cancer diagnosis, they may turn to anger as a way to cope.
- However, there’s nothing to be ashamed of when coping with a diagnosis and it is important to realize you are not alone.
Since his diagnosis, the 62-year-old loving husband and dad of four has been active in funding research for the cause. He’s also shown perseverance and gratitude amid his battle with Parkinson’s, something anyone living with a disease or cancer can look up to.Read More
When asked what scares him, Fox, who has four children with his wife Tracy Pollan, told the lifestyle magazine, “Anything that would put my family in jeopardy.”View this post on Instagram
Fox reportedly admitted to being scared of falling into one of his loved ones and them getting struck by a bus.
However, as for himself dying, Fox says he’s not scared of that one bit.
Explaining to Town & Country’s Tenth Annual Philanthropy issue, Fox said, “One day I’ll run out of gas. One day I’ll just say, ‘It’s not going to happen. I’m not going out today.’ If that comes, I’ll allow myself that.
“I’m 62 years old. Certainly, if I were to pass away tomorrow, it would be premature, but it wouldn’t be unheard of. And so, no, I don’t fear that.”
In an interview with The Project’ Waleed Aly, from earlier this year, the “Back To The Future” star explained how he views Parkinson’s as a “gift.”
Fox said, “I always say Parkinson’s is a gift and people say to me, ‘How can you possibly describe it as a gift?’ And I say, ‘It is the gift that keeps on taking, but it is a gift.’
“I’m really happy with the way my life has turned out and I love the chance I have to be of service.'”
Michael J. Fox’s Parkinson’s Journey
In 1991, when Michael J. Fox was just 29 years old, he was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s, a diagnosis he decided to keep private for seven years prior to going public with the news in 1998.
Since speaking out about the disease, Fox has become a spokesperson for Parkinson’s awareness, pushing for more research and funding.
His organization, The Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) for Parkinson’s Research, was created to help find a cure for Parkinson’s disease through funding research and developing therapies.
Included in the foundation’s track record of impact on Parkinson’s research, MJFF states on its website, “In our preclinical portfolio, MJFF-funded investigations have resulted in more than 20 early-stage therapeutic programs, which have attracted follow-on funding from venture capital, pharmaceutical or government funders for continuing development.”
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“In our clinical portfolio, we have funded or sponsored scores of clinical trials in partnership with both academic and industry teams. Today, more than 15 disease-modifying interventions are in clinical trials. Multiple improved symptomatic therapies have achieved regulatory approval or are poised to do so,” the foundation adds.
“The landmark MJFF-sponsored Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative has built the most robust dataset and biosample library in the history of Parkinson’s research. Data from brain scans (e.g., MRI, DaTscan), biosample analysis (e.g., spinal fluid protein levels) and intensive “omics” investigations (e.g., whole genome and RNA sequencing) from 1,500 volunteers has been downloaded by researchers over 1.7 million times since the study’s launch in 2010.”
Lastly, MJFF states, “The Foundation’s online clinical study, Fox Insight, has galvanized people with Parkinson’s and their families to take an active role in research by sharing their lived experience of the disease. Since the study launched in 2017, more than 48,000 individuals have raised their hand to become citizen scientists to power PD research.”
As for Parkinson’s, it’s a chronic illness that affects the nervous system. As time passes, more symptoms start to show up in the body. Although there is currently no cure for this degenerative disease, researchers like those at The Michael J. Fox Foundation are trying to change that.
Signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease can often seem innocuous and go unnoticed as they could potentially be attributed to other things. According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), the four main symptoms of Parkinson’s are:
- A tremor in hands, arms, legs, jaw, or head
- Muscle stiffness, where muscle remains contracted for a long time
- Slowness of movement
- Impaired balance and coordination, sometimes leading to falls
Other symptoms can include:
- Depression and other emotional changes
- Difficulty swallowing, chewing, and speaking
- Urinary problems or constipation
- Skin problems
Symptoms of Parkinson’s can vary from person to person, as well as the rate of the disease’s progression.
As researchers like those at The Michael J. Fox Foundation are trying to find a cure for the disease, medications to mitigate and control some symptoms of Parkinson’s do exist, some of which include dopamine promoters, antidepressants, cognition-enhancing medication, and anti-tremor medication.
Whether you have #Parkinsons disease or not, you can participate in important research investigating ways to slow disease progression, evaluate therapies and test interventions.
Read our latest blog to discover studies recruiting for volunteers. https://t.co/3v7miJkX9t
— michaeljfox.org (@MichaelJFoxOrg) March 30, 2023
For those living with Parkinson’s, or a similar disease, Fox offered some advice in an earlier AARP interview, saying, “Have an active life and do not let yourself get isolated and marginalized. You can live with it.”
He continued, “People sometimes say that a relative or a parent or a friend died of Parkinson’s. You don’t die of Parkinson’s. You die with Parkinson’s, because once you have it, you have it for life, until we can remedy that, and we’re working hard at it.”
“So, to live with it, you need to exercise and be in shape and to eat well,”Fox said. “If you can’t drive, find a way to get around. Maintain friendships. Don’t say, ‘Oh, I don’t have anything to say to Bob. Bob might have something to say to you. Just make the call.”
Staying Grateful for Life After a Diagnosis
Following a diagnosis, it’s understandably difficult to feel gratitude in all aspects of life. However, studies have proven that patients who maintain an optimistic and positive attitude, like Michael J. Fox as, often have better treatment outcomes.
“The patients who do well with cancer, they live life with gratitude in terms of everything,” Dr. Zuri Murrell, a colorectal cancer surgeon and Director of the Cedars-Sinai Colorectal Cancer Center, previously told SurvivorNet.
“They’re grateful, not for cancer, but they’re grateful for an opportunity to know that life is finite. They live life with [saying] ‘I love you’ to their husband, to their wife, to their kids,” Dr. Murrell added.
“They can appreciate it for one of the first times ever because they know it may not be forever that they get to do this. Those are the patients that tend to do well with processing and also living a long, long life despite a diagnosis.”
Coping With Grief & Anger After a Diagnosis
Michael J. Fox has admitted that instead of feeling upset about his Parkinson’s diagnosis, he instead felt motivated, according to Town & Country. It’s great to see Fox staying positive through adversity, however, it’s important to know that struggling mentally does not look the same for everyone.
Some people may be very high-functioning, while others show clear signs that indicate depression. Sometimes, perhaps after a particularly stressful life event, people may begin feeling anger that seems irrational or uncharacteristic.
Dr. William Breitbart, chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, says that when he sees patients dealing with some sort of life-changing or even life-threatening challenge, such as a cancer diagnosis, they may turn to anger as a way to cope.
“One gets angry because one hasn’t quite achieved and fulfilled the tasks that they set out for their lives and the responsibilities that they’ve committed to fulfill,” Dr. Breitbart explains.
Treatment may involve speaking with a professional and trying to come up with ways to achieve those goals. However, Dr. Breitbart notes that guiding these patients to accept their own vulnerability is also crucial.
“The last resort of relieving existential guilt is this act of being able to forgive yourself for being a human being that is vulnerable and susceptible to not being able to fulfill their full potential. So, it’s forgiveness ultimately,” he explains.
For some people, there may even be a sense of shame or guilt involved in seeking mental health treatment in the first place. However, there’s nothing to be ashamed of and it is important to realize you are not alone. Reaching out for help is never something to be embarrassed about.
More Inspiration For People Battling Disease
Just like Michael J. Fox’s upcoming film, SurvivorNetTV’s programming on Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a disease of the brain and spinal cord, is another source of encouraging and hopeful shows for people battling a disease. You can watch people defying odds and living their best life despite the diagnosis they received.
SurvivorNetTV’s film “Defying All Odds,” follows the story of Dr. Terry Wahls, a world-renowned doctor and scientist determined to continue practicing medicine even after being diagnosed with a severe form of multiple sclerosis (MS).
Meanwhile, another film, “Don’t Stop Me Now,” takes a look at MS survivor Louise Carr’s inspiring battle against the disease that causes her daily pain, fatigue, memory loss and restricted movement. “I might have MS, but it doesn’t have me,” she tells SurvivorNet.
Contributing: SurvivorNet Staff