As someone who invited the young Michael J. Fox into my living room in the 1980s – I was an avid “Family Ties” fan – I was surprised to see the actor on the cover of a recent AARP magazine. Yes, the erstwhile Alex P. Keaton is now 52 years old and is enjoying life more than two decades into his Parkinson’s diagnosis.
Parkinson’s disease usually begins between ages 50 and 65, but Fox (pictured here) was one of less than 10 percent of patients to be diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson’s. Researchers still do not know what causes dopamine-producing brain cells to degenerate and trigger Parkinson’s symptoms such as trembling, slowness, and rigidity, but Fox is committed to finding a cure.
That’s why, in 2000, the actor launched the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, which is dedicated to finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease and to ensuring the development of improved therapies for the estimated 1 million people who are living with Parkinson’s today.
Though Fox’s health has degenerated since his 1991 diagnosis (and 1998 disclosure), his outlook has not.
“There’s an idea I came across a few years ago that I love,” he says. “My happiness grows in direct proportion [to] my acceptance and in inverse proportion to my expectations.”
Parkinson’s disease has been a game-changer for Fox, one that he often refers to as a “gift” – albeit one that keeps on taking.
“If I can accept the truth of ‘This is what I’m facing – not what can I expect, but what I am experiencing now’ – then I have all this freedom to do other things,” he says.
In a case of art imitating life, the actor and advocate will even star in a new comedy series this fall on NBC – The Michael J. Fox Show – playing a New York husband and father whose life and career are affected by Parkinson’s.
I, for one, am looking forward to welcoming him back into my living room in September.