Michael J. Fox Reflects on Challenges of Parkinson’s Diagnosis

by Megan Molseed
(Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images)

In 1991, 1980s television and film icon – and teen-magazine cover-boy – Michael J Fox received some news that would change his life. After a slow emergence of symptoms during a period of time, the longtime actor was finally diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

While the diagnosis was certainly a shocking one, the now sixty-year-old actor has spent the rest of his time not only maintaining a positive outlook while living with Parkinson’s disorder, but he has also become Hollywood’s face of the disease.

And, this month, Michael J. Fox has returned to his days as a magazine cover-model days as he is featured on the cover of AARP The Magazine’s December 2021/January 2022 issue. In this issue, Michael J. Fox speaks candidly about Parkinson’s disease and what life has been like since the life-changing diagnosis.

For Fox, his dealing with the diagnosis over the last thirty years is based on one train of thought, the fact that “gratitude makes optimism sustainable.”

Michael J. Fox Maintains His Gratitude and Positive Outlook On Life

“For one thing, I am genuinely a happy guy,” Michael J. Fox says in a recent interview with AARP.

“I don’t have a morbid thought in my head,” the longtime actor adds. “I don’t fear death. At all.”

While Fox’s outlook is one of absolute positivity, he does admit that there was a period after his diagnosis in which he felt helpless to fight off the incurable disease.

However, Fox says, he found inspiration in an important figure within his life.

“As I came through that darkness, I also had an insight about my father-in-law, who had passed away and always espoused gratitude and acceptance and confidence,” Michael J Fox explains.

I started to notice things I was grateful for and the way other people would respond to difficulty with gratitude,” the star adds. “I concluded that gratitude makes optimism sustainable.”

Fox adds that sometimes the things for which we can be grateful may be hard to find. But, the actor notes, there is always something there if we keep looking.

“And if you don’t think you have anything to be grateful for, keep looking,” Fox explains.

“Because you don’t just receive optimism,” the actor continues. “You can’t wait for things to be great and then be grateful for that. You’ve got to behave in a way that promotes that.”

While optimism and positivity have been a big part of Michael J Fox’s outlook since his Parkinson’s diagnosis in 1991, he does admit that there are some days when dealing with the disease becomes difficult.

But while “some days are more difficult than others,” the actor is determined to make not to let a negative mindset overpower him.

The Disease Isn’t Who He Is

“The disease is this thing that attached to my life — it isn’t the driver,” Michael J Fox says.

Fox adds that he is aware that he has been fortunate in how he is able to combat the effects of the disease in ways that others with the same diagnosis may not.

“Because I have assets, I have access to things others don’t,” Fox explains.

“I wouldn’t begin to compare my experience to that of a working guy who gets Parkinson’s and has to quit his job and find a new way to live,” the actor adds. “So, I’m really lucky.”