Actor Michael J Fox is most famous for his role as Marty McFly in the Back to the Future trilogy, however, when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 1991, his career took a turn in an entirely new direction.
Now, in his fourth memoir, No Time Like The Future, Fox has opened up about how the disease has impacted not only his career but his life.
In the book, he details how “not being able to speak reliably is a game-breaker for an actor.”
“Absent a chemical intervention, Parkinson’s will render me frozen, immobile, stone-faced, and mute – entirely at the mercy of my environment,” he wrote. “For someone for whom motion equals emotion, vibrance and relevance, it’s a lesson in humility.”
“There is a time for everything, and my time of putting in a twelve-hour workday, and memorizing seven pages of dialogue, is best behind me,” Fox wrote.
“At least for now … I enter a second retirement. That could change, because everything changes. But if this is the end of my acting career, so be it. My work as an actor does not define me.”
For now, the 59-year-old, who is the founder of The Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, is focusing on campaigning for the disease.
What is Parkinson’s Disease?
According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, “Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects predominately dopamine-producing (“dopaminergic”) neurons in a specific area of the brain called ‘substantia nigra’.”
The cause of PD is largely unknown and currently, there is no cure, however, treatment options are available and vary from person to person.
For those with the disease, symptoms generally develop slowly but will also differ in each case. These may include:
— Tremor (mainly at rest and described as “pill-rolling” tremor in hands, with other forms of tremor possible)
— Bradykinesia i.e. slow movement
— Limb rigidity
— Gait (walking) and balance problems
In addition to movement-related (“motor”) symptoms, Parkinson’s symptoms may be unrelated to movement (“non-motor”)
There are also “typical patterns of progression” within the disease that are defined in stages.
— Stage One
People may have mild symptoms that affect both sides of the body, including walking and posture.
— Stage Two
Symptoms progress faster and tremors, rigidity and other movement symptoms become more apparent.
— Stage Three
This is considered a “mid-stage”, and people may experience loss of balance and slowness of movements. Falls are common at this stage.
(Fox said he is in the “late mild” stage of the disease which is most likely around here)
— Stage Four
Symptoms are severe and limiting once people progress to this stage. People may find it difficult to walk and may even be bedridden or require a wheelchair.
— Stage Five
According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, this is the “most advanced and debilitating stage.” Around-the-clock nursing care is required for all activities and the person may experience hallucinations and delusions.
For more information about Parkinson’s Disease, head to the Australian Parkinson’s Foundation website and their information sheets page or visit The Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.