20 Years After Diagnosis Michael J. Fox Publicly Admits What We've All Been Suspecting
Cailyn Finkel 4/16/2018
When Michael J. Fox announced he was struggling with Parkinson's disease in 1998, it was one of the hardest things he ever had to do. After years of trying to suppress his feelings of sadness and loss with alcohol, he knew it was time to man up and make the most of it.
Now Michael is one of the biggest Parkinson's disease advocates and spends any free time working to fund research for a cure. Despite the attention, love and respect Michael's shown those affected by the condition, his own health has been under wraps.
But now Michael's speaking out about the progression of his condition and how's he's coping...
After coming out about his diagnosis, things were strange for Michael. He told AARP Magazine that people would project their own fears about Parkinson's on him.
According to Michael, those projections would change the way he felt physically.
"After I made my diagnosis public back in 1998, I began to realize that Parkinson's gives you two things to reckon with. You deal with the condition, and you deal with people's perception of the condition.
It was easy for me to tune in to the way other people were looking into my eyes and seeing their own fear reflected back. I'd assure them that 'I'm doing great' - because I was.
After a while, the disconnect between the way I felt and the dread people were projecting just seemed, you know, funny..."
Instead of wallowing in that fear and allowing other people's worries affect him any further, Michael decided to do something amazing. He founded the Michael J. Fox Foundation as a way to help others who were diagnosed with Parkinson's.
Now his foundation is a much-needed resource for those who are suffering, need financial support, want to get involved or just want to speak to other people with the same condition.
In the years after his upsetting diagnosis, hoards of people reached out to him. Friends wanted to wish him well, family members wanted to shower him with love and fans wanted to show their support.
Even though every kind word meant the world to Michael, there was one phone call with a famous Parkinson's patient that truly inspired him.
He told AARP Magazine about that special phone call:
"Muhammad Ali called me at home. And in this raspy, paper-thin voice, he said, 'Aahhhhh... Michael, now that you're in it, we'll win this fight.' What could I say?
Sitting there alone listening to Muhammad Ali, this giant - I was welling up, almost openly weeping."
If Muhammad Ali believed in his strength, then he needed to believe in himself. There was no room insecurities or self-doubt when the wellness of millions was on the line -- and he was determined to be their advocate.
Michael explained to AARP Magazine how life-changing the process of starting the Michael J. Fox Foundation was for him.
"A funny thing happened. Doctors reached out to me. And I reached out to doctors. More important, the Parkinson's community reached out to me, and I immediately felt better, just empowered, knowing there were people who understood what I was going through. It was also empowering for physicians, specialists and researchers I began meeting all over the country."
To date, the Michael J. Fox Foundation has raised more than $700 million for Parkinson's research. But when it comes to his own health, Michael told AARP Magazine things are okay -- not perfect.
"My visible symptoms are distracting, but none of them hurt. The only real pain I get is in my feet, which sometimes shuffle and curl up in cramps when I'm sleeping - which is why I keep a very stiff pair of shoes on the floor next to my bed."
While there's no cure for Parkinson's, Michael's doctors found a mix of drugs that works wonders. He's still feeling better than he did ten years ago and continues to work actively in the entertainment industry.
We can only hope that Michael's health continues and he can keep doing the things he loves.