In 1991, a then 29-year-old Michael J. Fox received the devastating news that he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The “Back to the Future” star went on to share his diagnosis with the public seven years later. Now, Fox is opening up about new health issues he’s recently faced.
In an interview with The New York Times published on Friday, the actor, 57, spoke about the spinal surgery — unrelated to his Parkinson’s — he underwent last April.
“I was having this recurring problem with my spinal cord,” he told the outlet. “I was told it was benign but if it stayed static I would have diminished feeling in my legs and difficulty moving. Then all of a sudden I started falling — a lot. It was getting ridiculous. I was trying to parse what was the Parkinson’s and what was the spinal thing. But it came to the point where it was probably necessary to have surgery. So I had surgery, and an intense amount of physical therapy after. I did it all, and eventually people asked me to do some acting.”
However, Fox revealed that when he was supposed to return to work in August, he suffered another fall.
“I woke up, walked into the kitchen to get breakfast, misstepped and I went down,” he recalled. “I fractured the hell out of my arm. I ended up getting 19 pins and a plate. It was such a blow.”
Following the incident, Fox said he dealt with it by trying “not to get too New Age-y.”
“I don’t talk about things being ‘for a reason,'” he noted. “But I do think the more unexpected something is, the more there is to learn from it. In my case, what was it that made me skip down the hallway to the kitchen thinking I was fine when I’d been in a wheelchair six months earlier? It’s because I had certain optimistic expectations of myself, and I’d had results to bear out those expectations, but I’d had failures too. And I hadn’t given the failures equal weight.”
As for finding a cure for Parkinson’s, Fox — who started the Michael J. Fox Foundation in 2000 — says he still believes in one.
“I still believe in a cure. For so long Sinemet L-dopa was the gold standard. That was all we had, and it gave relief but it only lasted a certain amount of time and led to dyskinesias and other side-effects. So it was important to find better treatments,” he shared. “There’s a new drug that’s been approved that’s like a rescue inhaler for when you freeze. Because freezing is a very real thing for Parkinson’s patients. I could be sitting here with my foot on fire and a glass of water over there on the table and all I’d be able to do is think about how good it would feel to pour that water on my foot.”
Added Fox: “Treatments for that can make a huge difference in people’s lives. Now, if we can prophylactically keep Parkinson’s symptoms from developing in a person, is that a cure? No. Would I take it? Yes.”