Back to the Future star Michael J. Fox has revealed new health scares related to his near 30-year battle with Parkinson’s disease, which has led to repeat falls and spinal surgery.
“I was having this recurring problem with my spinal cord. I was told it was benign but if it stayed static I would have diminished feeling in my legs and difficulty moving,” Fox told The New York Times.
“Then all of a sudden I started falling — a lot. It was getting ridiculous. I was trying to parse what was the Parkinson’s and what was the spinal thing. But it came to the point where it was probably necessary to have surgery. So I had surgery, and an intense amount of physical therapy after. I did it all, and eventually people asked me to do some acting. Last August I was supposed to go to work. I woke up, walked into the kitchen to get breakfast, misstepped and I went down. I fractured the hell out of my arm. I ended up getting 19 pins and a plate. It was such a blow.”
Becoming one of the most vocal advocates for developing a cure for Parkinson’s disease, Fox’s self-named foundation has raised $800 million since 2000. The effort comes in part from his belief in a cure.
“For so long Sinemet L-dopa9 was the gold standard. That was all we had, and it gave relief but it only lasted a certain amount of time and led to dyskinesias and other side-effects,” Fox said.
“So it was important to find better treatments. There’s a new drug that’s been approved that’s like a rescue inhaler for when you freeze. Because freezing is a very real thing for Parkinson’s patients.
“I could be sitting here with my foot on fire and a glass of water over there on the table and all I’d be able to do is think about how good it would feel to pour that water on my foot. Treatments for that can make a huge difference in people’s lives. Now, if we can prophylactically keep Parkinson’s symptoms from developing in a person, is that a cure? No. Would I take it? Yes.”
He has since begun to author a new book, inspired by his recent health issues.
“My health issues last year brought me to places where I started to say, ‘Was it false hope I’d been selling? Is there a line beyond which there is no consolation?’ For me to get to that place is pretty dark,” Fox admitted.
“I realized that the understanding I’d reached with Parkinson’s was sincere but risked being glib. I’d made peace with the disease but presumed others had that same relationship when they didn’t.
“Then when I started to deal with the effects from the spinal surgery, I realized: Wow, it can get a lot worse. Being in a position where I couldn’t walk and had health aides 24 hours a day, was I still prepared to say, ‘Hey, chin up!’ Parkinson’s, it’s a strange test.”
Fox briefly reprised his role as Marty McFly in a 2015 episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live alongside trilogy co-star Christopher Lloyd, who played wacky scientist Doc Brown. Original writer-director Robert Zemeckis has since said there will “never” be a fourth Back to the Future.
More information regarding donations to the Michael J. Fox Foundation and other ways to assist in the search for a cure can be found on the official Michael J. Fox website.
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