Following a tough year of breaks and recovery from Parkinson’s disease, actor Michael J. Fox gave a health update to People today (October 26). The Back to the Future star told the publication that, “It got worse. 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 was first diagnosed with the disease in 1991. According to the Mayo Clinic, Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder that affects the nervous system and the parts of the body controlled by the nerves. Symptoms start slowly, including tremors, stiffness, slowing of movement and soft or slurred speech. Parkinson’s disease symptoms worsen as your condition progresses over time. Although Parkinson’s disease can’t be cured, medications might significantly improve these symptoms.
While Parkinson’s affects Fox’s movement, those around him say the injuries don’t necessarily mean his disease is progressing any faster. He got an infection after surgery for his broken hand, and temporarily not being able to use the hand led to balance issues and falls. He admits the painful incidents put a dent in his sunny outlook.
“I was never really a cranky guy, but I got very cranky and short with people,” he says. “I try to nip it in the bud. I always think of these aides 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.'”
The star has weathered difficult periods before. In his 2020 memoir No Time Like the Future: An Optimist Considers Mortality, he said 2018 was the worst year of his life, chronicling a risky spinal-cord surgery to remove a tumor was followed by a painful left-arm break. After he recovered, he felt more positive about his situation. “I’m coming through where the last of my injuries are healing up; my arm is feeling good. Life is interesting. It deals you these things,” he says, adding, “The whole mission 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.”
Fox, 61, has been relying less on these tools as his strength improves, with video surfacing earlier this month of the actor reuniting with his Back to the Future co-star, Christopher Lloyd at New York Comic-Con. “I’m just getting to where I’m walking steadily again,” Fox says. “I think it’s cool to walk by myself. It is. It’s fantastic.”
As far as Fox’s return to acting, don’t get your hopes up; he retired in 2020 after struggling to remember his lines while filming a role on Kiefer Sutherland’s Designated Survivor. For most of his career, memorizing lines had come easily: “I could look at a page and get it. I couldn’t focus on a line,” he says. “I didn’t beat myself up. I couldn’t do it, so I didn’t do it anymore.”
Fox has a new project in the works — an untitled AppleTV+ documentary due in 2023 — of which he can say little except: “It’s about me and many different ways of looking at my life.”
Despite enduring a difficult year, Fox remains determined. “It’s been a struggle, but I’m happy,” he says. “I say that because I hope on some level people can find happiness in spite of what they’re going through.”