Michael J Fox kept Parkinson's disease a secret after denying it for 7 years

Ashley Bautista December 5, 2022
Michael J Fox kept Parkinson's disease a secret after denying it for 7 years
Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images

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Not only is Michael J Fox a beloved and talented actor, but he has also become a strong advocate of Parkinson’s disease research by helping raise billions for the cause. Diagnosed at the young age of 29, he has openly admitted he faced tough times coming to terms with the diagnosis. However, he used his influence and personal struggles to raise more than a billion dollars in research.

In a 13-minute speech accepting the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, Michael opened up about the most difficult stage the actor had to go through. This was when Michael J Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1991. At the time, the actor was only 29 years old and had only just married his wife, Tracy Pollan.

Reflecting on his diagnosis and the challenging times he had gone through at the early stage of his international fame, Fox spoke about being told of “only having 10 years left to work”.

Struggles, commitments, and a will to fight back by not allowing his Parkinson’s diagnosis to take over his career.

Michael J Fox’s unexpected retirement after Parkinson’s disease

Photo by VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images

Before entering Hollywood fame, Michael dropped out of high school in 11th grade. He moved from Canada to Los Angeles to achieve his dream of becoming an actor.

Michael began his career in the ’70s and rose to fame playing Alex P Keaton on NBC sitcom Family Ties. However, many others might recognize him as Marty McFly from the Back to the Future trilogy.

In his lengthy career, Fox has been awarded many awards. These include five Primetime Emmy Awards, two SAGA, four Golden Globes, and a Grammy Award.

After five decades in the industry, 23 movies, and 50 appearances on television, Michael retired from the Hollywood world to focus on his health.

His last project became voicing the character of Michael J Bird in Michael Mankowski’s Back Home Again in 2021.

‘Seven years of denial’ after diagnosis

In a 2002 memoir titled Lucky Man, the 61-year-old revealed his thoughts and feelings throughout the process. Fox had just entered his Hollywood fame years after leaving Canada to chase his dream.

“I entered into seven years of denial, trying to make sense of it all,” shared Michael. “The kid who left Canada convinced that he would make anything happen just by working hard and by believing, now had a tall order in front of him.”

He confessed: “I told very few people. And they kept my secret.”

During a challenging and emotional time for the actor, he wrote about going through a period of depression and alcoholism. However, he eventually became sober once it began affecting his marriage to Tracy.

In recent years, Michael has undergone several surgeries after symptoms began to affect his ability to use his legs. Attending physical therapy, the actor has been seen walking with a cane to help keep his balance.

Michael remains very optimistic. In a recent interview with PEOPLE, he said: “I’m coming through where the last of my injuries are healing up; my arm is feeling good. Life is interesting. It deals you these things.”

Becoming an inspiration and raising more than $1 billion in research

Michael kept his Parkinson’s disease secret for seven years after his diagnosis in 1991. Speaking about his condition for the first time at 36, he committed himself to the campaign to increase Parkinson’s research.

In 2001, one year after retiring from the Spin City series after appearing in more than 100 episodes, Fox launched The Michael J Fox Foundation.

His fans, who have been following him since the prime years of his acting career, are now inspired by his dedication and willingness to help others with the same condition.

Two decades later, it remains the world’s largest non-profit funder of Parkinson’s disease research in the world, raising $1.5 billion in research programs as of October 2021.

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Ashley Bautista is an Audience Content Writer at GRV Media writing across different sites such as Reality Titbit, HITC, and The Focus. Always keen to learn about celebrity news and the entertainment world, she loves turning these into stories to share with the readers. Graduating from Kingston University with a BA (Hons) in Journalism in the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic, she found herself Keeping Up With The Kardashians more than anything else. Fun fact, it has turned into Ashley’s favourite topic to talk about these days - that and the members of BLACKPINK.