Michael J. Fox reflected on a difficult year that saw him suffer multiple broken bones and mourn the loss of his mother – all while fighting Parkinson’s Disease for 30 years.
In an emotional interview with People, the 61-year-old Back To The Future star said his condition ‘deteriorated’ and he became uncharacteristically’short with people’ after breaking his cheek, hand, shoulder, and arm and his mother Phyllis died at the age of 92.
The actor previously described 2018 as one of his worst years, after undergoing spinal cord surgery to remove a tumor and breaking his left arm.
He said: ‘I broke my cheek, then my hand, then my shoulder, had a replacement shoulder put in and broke my [right] arm, then I broke my elbow. I’m 61 years old, and I’m feeling it a little bit more.
‘I was never really a cranky guy, but I got very cranky and short with people. I try to nip it in the bud. I always think of these aides who work with me. And I often say to them, ‘Whatever I say, just imagine I said “please” at the beginning and “thank you” at the end. Just take a second and absorb that I might have said that if I was more myself, but I didn’t, so I apologize.’
In 1991, the actor was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a long-term degenerative disorder of the central nervous system. He disclosed his diagnosis in 1998 and continued his acting career.
The disease affects the nervous system of the body, causing tremors, muscular rigidity, and loss of balance. Medication can help with symptom control, but there is no cure.
In 2000, the actor-turned-activist established the Michael J Fox Foundation to support research into therapies and cures for the degenerative disorder. Since its inception, the organization has raised more than a billion dollars.
He announced his retirement from acting in 2020, explaining that Parkinson’s disease had begun to affect his ability to speak and his memory.
The actor revealed that he is now ‘feeling good’ as the last of his injuries heal and outlined his mission to ‘not fall down.’
‘So whatever works to not fall down, whether it’s a walker or a wheelchair, a cane, a guy with a belt around my waist holding onto it — I use all those tools,’ Michael, who was seen struggling with his movement at this month’s Comic-Con, where he reunited with BTTF co-star Christopher Lloyd, said.
Michael went on to say that he is now well on his way to walking steadily again.
The actor of The Good Wife said his positive attitude stemmed from always trying to ‘find gratitude wherever I am,’ and that despite his difficult few months, he had ‘come out the other side more kind’ and finally happy again.
Since 1988, the star has been married to actress Tracy Pollan, 62. They have four children: Sam, 33, Aquinnah and Schuyler, both 27, and Esmé, 21.
Michael thanked his wife Tracy for her love and support during their marriage and his health struggles.
Michael revealed earlier this month that his mother, Phyllis Fox, died on September 24 at the age of 92.
Over the weekend, the actor revealed the sad news during his appearance at the 2022 New York Comic Con.
Michael remembered Phyllis by recalling a funny anecdote about how, in the 1980s, she didn’t want him to shoot Family Ties during the day and Back to the Future at night.
‘I was 23 years old, and I called her, she was in Canada, and I said, “They want me to do this Steven Spielberg movie, but I have to do it at night and I have to do Family Ties in the daytime.” And she said, “You’ll be too tired,”‘ he shared.
The Canadian-American star told his mom in response: ‘I live for this kind of tired. It’ll be okay.’
He then added, ‘To this day — well, till two weeks ago — my mother thought it was a really bad idea for me to do Back to the Future. She loved the movie, [but she was right], I got tired.’
Phyllis was born in 1929 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, according to an online obituary.
She is survived by her sons Steve and Michael, daughters Jackie and Kelli, nine grandchildren, ten great-grandchildren, and a great-great-granddaughter.
Phyllis ‘took special pride in raising awareness for Diabetes and Parkinson’s Disease, as well as serving on the board of directors of the Michael J Fox Theatre in Burnaby.’
During Comic Con Michael also shared about his own health struggles, and how he remains optimistic despite them.
‘Well, in the last year I’ve broken my cheek, my eye socket, my hand, my elbow … my shoulder. I had a rough year of getting beat up. But that was really cool because it made me realize … with gratitude, it’s sustainable,’ he stated.
‘If you can find something to be grateful for, if you can find something and say, “Well, that’s good,” … It’ll always get better… I’m very optimistic.’
‘I’d say optimism is thinking that things are more likely to get better than they are to get worse. If you believe in that, and you are grateful for it, that’ll sustain you the rest of your life,’ he added.
Michael previously shared his Parkinson’s struggles in a 2020 interview with People, discussing his short-term memory, tremors and rigidity.
‘My short-term memory is shot,’ he stated, adding, ‘I always had a real proficiency for lines and memorization. And I had some extreme situations where the last couple of jobs I did were actually really word-heavy parts. I struggled during both of them.
He is now looking ahead to an AppleTV+ documentary due for release in 2023 which will chronicle his life.