Michael J. Fox Talks Intense Recovery Following a Major Surgery

by Josh Lanier
(Photo by John Medina/WireImage)

As Michael J. Fox writhed on the floor in agonizing pain with a broken arm, he told himself he was “out of the lemonade business.” He’d preached positivity since announcing in 1999 that doctors diagnosed him with Parkinson’s disease. But laying there on the floor, he felt like a fraud. Did he talk about positivity, or did he believe in it? He had to decide, he told himself. And, yeah, this sucks, but he realized even then that his life was good. This was just a small setback.

Let’s rewind a few months. In early 2018, doctors found a tumor on Michael J. Fox’s spine. It was benign but in a very bad position. If it continued to grow, it would paralyze him. But surgery also had major risks. Any mistake could also mean spending the rest of his life in a wheelchair.

He decided to get the surgery. It was a success, but it took its toll, he told CBS Mornings earlier this month. He endured months of grueling physical therapy to learn how to walk again and regain full use of his body.

When he felt good enough to return to work, Fox talked his family into letting him stay on his own for a weekend. They’d taken care of him during his rehab, and he wanted to fend for himself for a day. He fell the next morning and “shattered” his humerus bone. It was all too much, he thought.

“Who am I to tell people to cheer up? Who am I to tell people it’s going to be OK? … I felt so much weight of that public persona of being ‘Mr. Optimist,'” he said. “I still am Mr. Optimist, and I knew in some small way I knew in that moment — as dark as it was — that I would get back to it at some point.”

Michael J. Fox Said Watching ‘Back to the Future’ Helped Him

Last year, Michael J. Fox said he was channel surfing when he came across Back to the Future. The movie is an all-time classic for fans, but Fox has a complicated relationship with it. For one, he barely remembers filming any of it.

During the day, Michael J. Fox filmed his sitcom Family Ties, and at night he’d shoot scenes for the movie. He would only get a few hours of sleep on a good night and some nights none at all. When he came across the movie playing on TV last year, he decided to put that baggage aside.

“It’s amazing — more people of all ages approach me now about (Back to the Future) than ever before. I’m not sure I understood why,” he told AARP Magazine. “Then I came across it on TV last Christmas. And I thought I was really good in it, better than I thought I’d been. More importantly, I got the spirit of the movie. I understood it was just a big giggle and that we all need … to take credit for what we’ve done and the lives we’ve touched and to occasionally step back a bit and appreciate that much of life has been great and that there’s a lot more to live.”