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Michael J. Fox Gives Health Update 20 Years After Revealing He Had Parkinson's

CBS News

I think every family had one movie that they just watch nonstop because everyone can agree they like it.

In my house we had two: A League of Their Own and Back to the Future.

No matter how many times we saw it, the classic time travel comedy always made us laugh.

And the charismatic lead actor, Michael J. Fox, was a big part of the movie's appeal.

Since his Parkinson's disease diagnosis 20 years ago, Fox hasn't been in the spotlight as much, and some of his fans are concerned about the '80s star's health.

Doctors said he would be "pretty much disabled"

Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future.
Fox as Marty McFly in 'Back to the Future.'Universal Pictures

After building a successful career with roles on Family Ties and in the Back to the Future trilogy, Fox's career slowed down in the '90s.

The actor was actually privately battling Parkinson's disease, which he had been diagnosed with in 1991.

Parkinson's is a degenerative disease that affects the nervous system. Over time, patients begin to shake, have trouble moving, slow down, and even develop dementia.

Doctors told Fox that he would be "pretty much disabled" in a decade or less. But the actor was more optimistic.

"If you pick me last, I will do everything I can to make you look like a fool," he joked.

And in fact, Fox's career blossomed after his diagnosis.

Revealing his diagnosis

Fox took a lead role on Spin City in the '90s, and the sitcom quickly became a hit.

Fox actually earned an Emmy award for his role on the show, but behind the scenes his Parkinson symptoms were catching up to him.

Michael J. Fox in Spin City.
Fox in 'Spin City.CBS

While it was getting more difficult to move around every day, Fox says the hardest part was having people pity him.

He said that "people's perceptions of the condition" were worse than the actual disease.

"I'd assure them that 'I'm doing great' - because I was."

Part of his decision to finally reveal his diagnosis in 1998 was to raise awareness for Parkinson's patients, which he's definitely done.

Finding a cure

Over the years, Fox has continued to earn praise (and awards) for his guest roles on TV shows.

Michael J. Fox in The Michael J. Fox Show.
Fox on 'The Michael J. Fox Show.'NBC

But he's spent most of his time writing books and raising money through The Michael J. Fox Foundation.

The charity is working to find a cure for Parkinson's, but Fox admits that's not "something that will happen in my lifetime."

Still, Fox is making the most of the time he has left, and will even be returning to TV in a huge role later this year.

"Working in the Oval Office"

Fox has starred in The Michael J. Fox Show, and had a juicy role on The Good Wife, but his acting appearances are few and far between lately.

So his fans should mark their calendars for his appearance on Designated Survivor later this year.

realmikefox / Instagram

Fox teased the appearance on his new Instagram account, sharing a photo of himself and fellow '80s icon Kiefer Sutherland.

"If 30 years ago these two Canadians knew they would be working in the Oval Office," he wrote, "they would have been on better behavior."

Fox will reportedly appear on the show for five episodes.

Just like his guest spots on Rescue Me and The Good Wife, we can already bet that Fox will get an Emmy nod for his performance.

Health update

Last year in an interview with AARP, Fox was careful to assure fans that he's still doing fine.

Michael J. Fox
Jeff Lipsky

"The truth is that on most days, there comes a point where I literally can't stop laughing at my own symptoms," he joked.

And with his continued success these last two decades, no one is looking down on him any more.

"Because of all the things I've done, nobody pities me, and that's great," he said. "I couldn't stand it."

Michael will always be one of my favorite stars! Glad to hear he's still thriving!

[H/T: Today, NPR, Guardian, CBS]