At age 29, Michael J. Fox received devastating news when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
“Honestly, my first reaction was, ‘You’ve made a mistake — you’re not aware of who I am,'” the actor admitted to Closer Weekly. “I just thought, ‘This is preposterous that this is happening to me.’ I got this diagnosis, and it freaked me out, and I ran from it.”
The Parkinson’s Foundation describes the disease as a neurodegenerative disorder that slowly develops symptoms over the years. Those with PD may experience tremors, balance problems and limb rigidity, among other side effects. The cause of PD is relatively unknown and there is no cure. However, treatment options vary and can include medications and surgery.
The “Back to the Future Star” shared he coped with the news by turning to alcohol.
“I responded by drinking too much,” he said. “I drank to obliterate it, to make it go away. [But the abuse] caused tension in my marriage, which had always been good and has been amazing since.”
Fox has been married to actress Tracy Pollan since 1988 and the couple shares four children. The 58-year-old was determined to stay by Fox’s side.
“My wife is just an amazing person,” said Fox. “I credit her with a lot of my ability to deal with this — and also shutting down my early attempts to deal with it in a non-productive way by drinking or getting angry.”
The magazine added Fox’s children have also been supportive as well.
“If I were to use one word to describe my kids, it’s ‘kind,’” said Fox. “They take it in — it’s just natural. I don’t know how we got so lucky that they turned out this way, but they apply that to everything they do. They didn’t get anxiety from [my disease]. They got peace from it, and it’s kept them honest. They pour orange juice for me. It’s great. You understand there’s bigger stuff going on than just yourself.”
Fox was initially frightened by the revelation, but at age 57, he refuses to let the illness prevent him from enjoying his life. These days, he prefers to live in the moment.
“It’s OK to understand where I am today, but I don’t have to spend a lot of time thinking about where I’ll be tomorrow,” said the “Back to The Future” movie star. “I do the things I need to do — exercise or manage my meds correctly or get the correct amount of rest — but I don’t do them so tomorrow’s better. I do them so today is good.”
These days, Fox hopes to inspire others with Parkinson’s and show them they too can live life to the fullest.
“Somebody said, ‘Someday, there’s going to be a cure for Parkinson’s, and it’s gonna be because of you,’” he said. “It was the first time that really struck me. If that happens, it’s much more special than any movie or TV show.”
This isn’t the first time, Fox has opened up about how his diagnosis impacted him behind closed doors. Fox told People magazine earlier this year he first realized something was wrong in 1990 when he woke up one morning and noticed his left pinkie was twitching uncontrollably. It wouldn’t be until 1991 when a neurologist told Fox he had young onset Parkinson’s.
Fox said that after he broke the news to Pollan, they held each other and cried. He then resorted to alcohol as an attempt to numb the pain and hid the empty bottles from his wife at home.
Then in 1992, Pollan and their then 3-year-old son Sam found Fox passed out on the living room sofa with a can of beer spilling on the rug next to him. That drink would be the last for Fox.
The publication added Fox got sober and began seeing a therapist to help him accept a new life with Parkinson’s.
Life then became sweeter for Fox, who welcomed twin daughters Aquinnah and Schuyler in 1995, and then Esme in 2001.
“It’s very easy to be optimistic,” said Fox. “This is my life. What is there to complain about?”