Michael J. Fox is amused at the symptoms brought on by his Parkinson’s disease.
The Back to the Future icon, who battles the disease, tells AARP The Magazine for their April/May cover story that most days he’ll laugh nonstop at himself, particularly when trying to deliver a cup of coffee to his wife of almost 30 years, Tracy Pollan.
“The truth is that on most days, there comes a point where I literally can’t stop laughing at my own symptoms,” he says.
“Just the other morning I come into the kitchen,” he says. “I pour a cup — a little trouble there. Then I put both hands around the cup. She’s watching. ‘Can I get that for you, dear?’ ‘Nah, I got it!’ Then I begin this trek across the kitchen. It starts off bad. Only gets worse. Hot java’s sloshing onto my hands, onto the floor.”
He continues, “But the thing that makes it hilarious to me is when I think of someone else watching all this and thinking, ‘Poor Michael can’t even get the coffee — it’s so sad!’ ”
Along with facing the difficulties of the disease, Fox, 55, also realized that he had to deal with people’s perception of the condition after he went public with his diagnosis in 1998.
“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,” he recalls. “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.”
After years of coping with Parkinson’s disease, Fox says his 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,” he says. “Which is why I keep a very stiff pair of shoes on the floor next to my bed.”
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Despite the challenges, he was reminded that he was not alone in his battle when legendary boxer Muhammad Ali, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease for three decades, called him.
Fox remembers that moment with clarity, saying, “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?” adds Fox. “Sitting there alone listening to Muhammad Ali, this giant — I was welling up, almost openly weeping.”