Michael J. Fox Says He Only Publicly Revealed Parkinson's Diagnosis After Bullying from Paparazzi

The former Back to the Future star was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 1991 and went public in 1998

Michael J. Fox
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Michael J. Fox is reflecting on the pressure he felt to reveal his health condition to the world and how it surprisingly became a "great opportunity."

The 60-year-old Emmy-winning actor recently spoke with Entertainment Tonight and discussed how his treatment from the paparazzi played a role in his decision to share publicly — several years after his diagnosis — that he was living with Parkinson's disease.

"It was seven or eight years after I had been diagnosed ... [and] the paparazzi and stuff, they would stand outside my apartment and heckle at me, like, 'What's the matter with you?' " Fox recalled. "I said, 'I can't be making my neighbors deal with this,' so I came out, and it was great. It was a great thing."

Fox was first diagnosed with Parkinson's, a long-term degenerative disorder of the central nervous system, in 1991 and later went public with his diagnosis in 1998. Despite feeling pressure to reveal his condition, the former Back to the Future star said he used his experience as an opportunity to teach others about the disease.

"It was a great surprise to me that people responded the way they responded," Fox continued. "They responded with interest, in the desire to find an answer to the disease, and then I saw that as a great opportunity. I didn't get put in this position to squander it."

Michael J Fox
Michael J. Fox. Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

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On Saturday, Fox will celebrate 20 years of his Michael J. Fox Foundation with a star-studded benefit, featuring performances by Sting and Brad Paisley.

With the Foundation, which has raised over $1 billion to date for Parkinson's research, "we are loading up all the cannons we can and pointing them at the target," Fox told PEOPLE earlier this week. "One of them will fire and it will happen. The disease is a problem that will be there until you solve it. But we're hopeful."

Physically these days, "I'm in a really good groove," said Fox. "Every day is different. The circle [of what I can do] gets smaller. But I'm happy I've found things in the middle of the circle that can't be touched, like my family and the time I have with them."

The actor and his wife Tracy Pollan, who tied the knot in 1988, share four children — Esmé, 19, Aquinnah and Schuyler, 26, and Sam, 32. He said that despite his kids being grown up, their family remains closer than ever.

"I have a great family," Fox shared. "My kids are spectacular and they apply their energy to change and making things better. You should see our family text chain. It goes on forever!"

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