‘Gratitude makes optimism sustainable’, Michael J. Fox reflects on Parkinson’s diagnosis

Michael J. Fox has maintained a positive outlook while living with Parkinson’s disease.

The 60-year-old, who is on the cover of AARP The Magazine’s December 2021/January 2022 issue, described how “gratitude makes optimism sustainable.”

“For one thing, I am genuinely a happy guy,” the star explained to the outlet. “I don’t have a morbid thought in my head — I don’t fear death. At all. But as I came through that darkness, I also had an insight about my father-in-law, who had passed away and always espoused gratitude and acceptance and confidence. I started to notice things I was grateful for and the way other people would respond to difficulty with gratitude. I concluded that gratitude makes optimism sustainable.”

“And if you don’t think you have anything to be grateful for, keep looking,” Fox shared. “Because you don’t just receive optimism. You can’t wait for things to be great and then be grateful for that. You’ve got to behave in a way that promotes that.”

Fox admitted that “some days are more difficult than others.” However, he’s determined to not let a negative mindset overpower him.

“The disease is this thing that attached to my life — it isn’t the driver,” he said. “And because I have assets, I have access to things others don’t. I wouldn’t begin to compare my experience to that of a working guy who gets Parkinson’s and has to quit his job and find a new way to live. So, I’m really lucky.”

Fox revealed that “Back to the Future,” the hit 1985 sci-fi/comedy he starred in, has uplifted his spirits recently.

“I came across it on TV last Christmas,” Fox revealed. “And I thought I was really good in it, better than I thought I’d been. More importantly, I got the spirit of the movie. I understood it was just a big giggle and that we all need … to take credit for what we’ve done and the lives we’ve touched and to occasionally step back a bit and appreciate that much of life has been great and that there’s a lot more to live.”

The Parkinson’s Foundation describes the disease as a neurodegenerative disorder that slowly develops symptoms over the years. Those with PD may experience tremors, balance problems and limb rigidity, among other side effects. The cause of PD is relatively unknown, and there is no cure. However, treatment options vary and can include medications and surgery.

Fox was diagnosed with the disease in 1991 but went public with his diagnosis in 1998. He retired from acting in 2020 and is now immersing himself in the Michael J. Fox Foundation, a nonprofit he co-founded in 2000 to help find a cure.

Fox said he hopes to leave being a lasting legacy that goes beyond Hollywood.

“I hope my children are a positive influence in the world,” he said. “I hope people will enjoy my work as an actor and get something from it. At a deeper level, I hope people see sincerity in the things I’ve said and done. If I’ve positively helped anybody with Parkinson’s, that’s great, too. I appreciate the purpose and opportunity to help the foundation, to be part of something that’s potentially so powerful and life-changing and world-changing — that’s huge.”

“Beyond that, and this is kind of a vanity thing – a lot of really great guitarists have come up to me over the years and said they picked up the guitar because of the ‘Johnny B. Goode’ scene in ‘Back to the Future,’” Fox shared. “If I did anything in this life, I got John Mayer to pick up the guitar.”

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