Michael J. Fox continues to navigate new health challenges amid his 30-year battle with Parkinson’s disease.
the Back to the Future star told people magazine that over the last year, “I broke my cheek, then my hand, then my shoulder, had a replacement shoulder put in and broke my [right] arm, then I broke my elbow. I’m 61 years old, and I’m feeling it a little bit more.”
Fox admitted, “It got worse,” from where he was in 2020 — and that period was no picnic. At the time, in addition to the challenges he faces with the neurodegenerative disorder — including tremors, stiffness, cognitive issues and moodiness — he had a risky surgery to remove a benign tumor on his spinal cord. His recovery included learning to walk again. As he was getting back on his feet, he fell and fractured his arm, necessitating another surgery to insert 19 pins and a plate.
“I’m coming through where the last of my injuries are healing up; my arm is feeling good,” the Family Ties and Spin City alum said of his current status recovering from injuries on top of injuries. “Life is interesting. It deals you these things.”
Fox, who has raised more than $1.5 billion for Parkinson’s research through his Michael J. Fox Foundation, said that his “whole mission” now is: “Don’t fall down. So whatever works to not fall down, whether it’s a walker or a wheelchair, a cane, a guy with a belt around my waist holding onto it — I use all those tools.” He was proudly able to walk unassisted across a stage for his recent reunion with Back to the Future co-star Christopher Lloyd earlier this month. He said, “I’m just getting to where I’m walking steadily again.”
The article notes that while Parkinson’s disease, which Fox was diagnosed with in 1991, affects his movement, his new injuries don’t necessarily mean his disease is progressing any faster. It’s been bad luck in some cases — for instance, he got an infection after surgery for his broken hand. Then, not being able to use his hand led to falls. It’s been a journey — and one that has rocked his optimism.
“I was never really a cranky guy, but I got very cranky and short with people,” Fox said. “I try to nip it in the bud. I always think of these aids who work with me. And I often say to them, ‘Whatever I say, just imagine I said “please” at the beginning and “thank you” at the end. Just take a second and absorb that I might have said that if I was more myself, but I didn’t, so I apologize.'”
He said it’s been challenging for his wife of 34 years, Tracy Pollan.
“It took me a while to get that it wasn’t just about me,” he said. “If I break my arm, I’m dealing with my broken arm. But if you’re the person who lives with and loves and supports the person with the broken arm, you’ve got to do everything.”
But his optimism still shines through despite his challenges.
“It’s been a struggle, but I’m happy,” he said. “I say that because I hope on some level people can find happiness in spite of what they’re going through.”
Fox is featured on the cover of the magazine’s Kindness issue. Pollan, with whom he shares four children, told the outlet that even during his most difficult days, Fox is “one of the most kind people I’ve ever met.”
Fox officially retired in 2020, saying not being able to speak reliably was a game-breaker. The Good Wife actor said the decision came after he couldn’t remember his lines while shooting on the set of Designated Survivor starring Kiefer Sutherland.
“I couldn’t focus on a line,” he said. “I didn’t beat myself up. I couldn’t do it, so I didn’t do it anymore.”
That said, you’ll continue to see him. He is working on an AppleTV + documentary due in 2023 about his life. He’ll also receive the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, an honorary Oscar recognizing outstanding philanthropic efforts, at the Governors Awards on Nov. 19.