Michael J. Fox’s Disease: Everything To Know About His Battle With Parkinson’s

Michael J. Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1991 and has lived with it for more than half his life. Learn about his journey here.

Michael J. Fox
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Michael J. Fox is a legendary actor who is best known for portraying Alex P. Keaton in the 1980s television series Family Ties and Marty McFly in the Back to the Future films. While the 60-year-old creative’s six-decade spanning career has certainly been fruitful, it has not been a smooth ride. Aside from being a successful actor, Michael is often seen as the face of Parkinson’s disease, as he was diagnosed with it at the age of 29 in 1991. The talented actor continued landing gig after gig following his diagnosis, but announced his battle with it in 1998 and soon after stepped away from life in front of the camera to advocate for Parkinson’s research.

While Michael eventually returned to acting, he admitted working in that environment is not second nature as it once was. In fact, he retired for a second time in 2020 due to limitations thrust upon him by Parkinson’s. Read on to learn more about Michael J. fox’s journey with Parkinson’s disease.

Michael J. Fox
Michael J. Fox smiles at an event (Photo: Shutterstock)

Michael J. Fox Committed Himself To Parkinson’s Research in 2000

As noted above, Michael J. Fox acted for about eight years with Parkinson’s disease without the public knowing. After two years of living in the spotlight with Parkinson’s, Michael announced he would be leaving the Fox hit series Spin City to focus on “new priorities,” according to his website. In late 2000, the successful actor created The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. Per his website, the center is “the world’s largest non-profit funder of Parkinson’s drug development.”

Michael J. Fox Returned To Acting Between 2012 And 2020

Michael J. Fox returned to life in front of the camera full-time in 2012. In 2013, he starred in NBC’s The Michael J. Fox Show, which was about a man who put his job as a news anchor on pause after learning he had Parkinson’s disease. The show aired for one season. “I think Parkinson’s freaked them out, which was problematic, because it was the premise of the show,” Michael wrote in his 2020 memoir No Time Like the Future: An Optimist Considers Mortality (via the Los Angeles Times). However, he took some of the blame and wrote that he simply did not have “the focus or the bandwidth to administer the life support the show would need to make it.” He added, “I’m fine with that.”

Following the show’s end, the Canadian actor continued to pick up roles. Between 2014 and 2020, Michael’s IMDb page credited him with over a dozen projects, including a cameo as himself in 2014’s Annie, a recurring role as Ethan West in Designated Survivor in 2018, and the small part of Louis Canning in The Good Fight in 2020. Despite his busy schedule, Michael wrote in his memoir that he knows the end of his career may be on the horizon and even announced his retirement a second time. “There is a time for everything, and my time of putting in a twelve-hour workday, and memorizing seven pages of dialogue, is best behind me,” he noted. “I enter a second retirement. That could change, because everything changes. But if this is the end of my acting career, so be it.”

There Are Limitations To What Michael J. Fox Can Take On As An Actor

In June 2022, Michael said he can no longer take roles with a lot of lines because his memory is not as sharp as it once was. “When I did the spinoff from [The] Good Wife, which is [The] Good Fight, I couldn’t remember the lines. I just had this blank, I couldn’t remember the lines,” he said on Mike Birbiglia’s podcast, Working It Out. He then recalled how quickly he used to be able to remember a script and admitted that when his memory failed him on The Good Fight, he graciously accepted it. “What [was] really refreshing was I didn’t panic. I didn’t freak out. I just went, ‘Well, that’s that. Moving on. A key element of this process is memorizing lines, and I can’t do it,'” he recalled. Along with his memory, Michael’s movement has been affected by Parkinson’s, as he was photographed walking with a cane in Dec. 2021.

Michael J. Fox Gets By With Help From His Loyal Wife

In his 2020 memoir No Time Like the Future: An Optimist Considers Mortality, the Secret of My Success actor said his wife Tracy Pollan has been nothing but supportive.  “She puts up with me,” Fox told Entertainment Tonight while promoting the book. “She doesn’t cut me any slack, which is great. She’s honest, affectionate, kind, smart and she’s just there in a pinch. She’s beautiful and I love her and she’s sexy and gorgeous.” He continued, “She’s a great mother, great cook and great bodyboard surf junkie beach babe.” She added that she is his “best friend.”

The pair have been married since 1988. They share three children together: Sam Michael, who was born in 1989, twin daughters Aquinnah Kathleen and Schuyler Frances, who were born in 1995, and daughter Esmé Annabelle, was brought into the world in 2001.

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