Before Michael J. Fox told the world he had Parkinson’s disease in 1998, whenever the television star opened his mouth, people laughed.
In Part One of our exclusive interview, Access realized that when Michael talks now, people listen intently to a man who may be talking about serious stuff but hasn’t lost his comic touch.
“When you have dreams at night, are you Michael J. Fox before Parkinsons or now?” Billy Bush asked.
“I don’t know,” Michael laughed. “I dream about dancing midgets and stuff. I don’t know.”
“It’s just me, plus this,” Michael explained. “Its just like if you woke up one day and you had another toe. I don’t know where it came from. It makes my shoes hurt, but I have another toe, so, maybe I’ll help out other people with an extra toe, and I’ll just carry on, you know.
But carrying on requires extremely precise planning.
When Michael appears in public or works on a TV show, he has to time his medications accordingly.
“The biggest thing that it kills for me is spontaneity,” Michael told Billy. “It has definitely been a loss. I can’t dance around like I used to dance around but I don’t know how else to put it. The list of blessingsare just so much greater than what this has cost me.”
Michael’s public persona is one of incredible optimism.
“Who’s the brave face for?” Billy asked. “Is it for your children? Is it for people who count on you because there are so many people who look to you for leadership?”
“I don’t think it’s really a brave face,” Michael said. “I sometimes feel guilty that its not as tough as people think it is. I mean I have four great kids, an amazing wife, I got a wonderful life, and I have this opportunity to do something. What more can I ask for?”
Last month on “Dateline,” Michael bravely shared that sometimes at home, he purposely doesn’t take his medication.
“Your children seeing you symptomatic at home…how are they gonna be different?” Billy asked.
“They see me struggle with things, but I think that’s great but they also know I’m their dad and I’m all that stuff, you know, whatever uber-dad stuff that there is. They’re going to struggle with things too, and they need to know that when challenges come up, you take it in. You absorb it. You recognize it. You look at it as the truth it is, what it is and you move on.”
“How about your wife, Tracy. How has this affected her?” Billy asked.
“She’s not going anywhere,” Michael laughed.
“Do you believe whole heartily in your lifetime that you’ll be able to reverse the effects of Parkinsons,” Billy asked.
“Yeah, I do,” Michael said. “Sometimes people say that someone died of Parkinsons, its actually a misstatment. You can’t die of Parkinsons, but you will invariably die with Parkisons. If you have Parkinsons, it’s not curable.
“Well, I think this will be the first generation of people who could have Parkinsons that will not die with it.”
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