In 1998, Michael J. Fox announced he was struggling with Parkinson’s disease. While there’s no doubt this was an incredibly difficult point in his life, he started noticing something strange after coming out about his condition — people began to project their own fears about Parkinson’s on him.
“After I made my diagnosis public back in 1998, I began to realize that Parkinson’s gives you two things to reckon with,” Fox explained. “You deal with the condition, and you deal with people’s perception of the condition.”
“It was easy for me to tune in to the way other people were looking into my eyes and seeing their own fear reflected back. I’d assure them that ‘I’m doing great’ – because I was. After a while, the disconnect between the way I felt and the dread people were projecting just seemed, you know, funny…”
And while he’s faced plenty of hardships when it comes to his condition, it’s led to some pretty great things, including the founding of the Michael J. Fox Foundation, which provides a much-needed resource for those who are suffering from Parkinson’s, need financial support, want to get involved, or just want to connect with other people with the same condition. He told AARP Magazine it opened many doors for him.
“A funny thing happened. Doctors reached out to me. And I reached out to doctors,” he said. “More important, the Parkinson’s community reached out to me, and I immediately felt better, just empowered, knowing there were people who understood what I was going through. It was also empowering for physicians, specialists and researchers I began meeting all over the country.”
Fox adds that the truth about his disease isn’t as tragic as most would assume.
“The truth is that on most days, there comes a point where I literally can’t stop laughing at my own symptoms,” he said.
“My visible symptoms are distracting, but none of them hurt. The only real pain I get is in my feet, which sometimes shuffle and curl up in cramps when I’m sleeping – which is why I keep a very stiff pair of shoes on the floor next to my bed.”
Learn more about Fox’s battle against Parkinson’s disease in the video below.
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