A decade after revealing that he has Parkinson's disease, he opens up about health, family and fighting for a cure
Ten years after shocking the world with the announcement that he has Parkinson’s, Michael J. Fox is aggressively fighting the disease – and says he still sees a bright future ahead.
“Based on how I feel now,” the star tells PEOPLE, “I’ll be okay for at least 10 more years.”
And what does “okay” mean to Fox? “Living a life that’s not much different than what I live now.”
Since leaving Spin City in 2000 – two years after revealing his Parkinson’s diagnosis on the cover of PEOPLE magazine – Fox, 47, has been focused on raising his four kids with wife Tracy Pollan, 48, and helping The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research pour $140 million into fighting the disease.
While a cure may still be far off, Fox has found a successful combination of medications to keep his symptoms under control. But, he says, the progression of the disease is unavoidable, and “at some point every day” he enters a state of what doctors call “bradykinesia” – in which his arms hang heavy at his side. At his worst, Fox’s speech is impaired and his face mostly void of emotion.
But the actor tells PEOPLE he doesn’t want anyone feeling sorry for him: “I refuse to define it in terms of a hardship or a difficulty,” he says. Timing his medications every couple of hours to avoid those symptoms may be a bit of a drag, but Fox is pragmatic: “If you don’t want your feet to get wet, you wear shoes. It is what it is.”
Fox has had to give up one of his favorite pastimes – running – but he’s still able to ice skate and drive a car. And he loves all the time he’s been able to spend with his wife and children in recent years. “It’s a horrible condition,” the Back to the Future star says. “Would I choose not to have it? Yeah …. But it’s not my choice.”
In fact, Fox says, having Parkinson’s “is part of an amazing life.” And it’s not “an otherwise amazing life,” he clarifies. “It’s part of what makes my life amazing.”
If it weren’t for the disease, he says, “I never would have written books, or met the people I’ve met, or traveled to the places I’ve traveled.”
All in all, Fox says, “I really love my life.”
For more on Fox and his brave battle, check out the new issue of PEOPLE, on stands Wednesday.