Michael J. Fox, who’s lived with Parkinson’s disease for more than 30 years, told CBS News that he’s always dealing with depression. But, he noted, he still finds ways to stay positive.
The “Back to the Future” and “Family Ties” actor was asked by “CBS Mornings” cohost Nate Burleson if he ever has moments where he battles depression or uncertainty.
“Yesterday at 3:57 in the afternoon,” Fox, 62, darkly quipped. “I mean, always.”
Parkinson’s is a progressive brain disorder that affects both movement and speech. Fox was first diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1991 at 29 years old. There is no cure.
“The positivity is really sincere. I really feel it, and it’s genuine” Fox said. “But it’s hard-fought, and it’s hard won, I should say. This fear, we can find ways to just give ourselves a break, give ourselves credit for getting through life, on life’s terms. And in order to do that, you have to stop and say, ‘It’s not that bad — it’s not that bad.’ … They say the absence of fear is faith.”
Fox met his wife Tracy Pollan working on “Family Ties” in 1985. She played his girlfriend on the series from 1985 until 1987 before they married in 1988. Fox praised Pollan for staying with him after he was diagnosed in 1991.
“We knew the bus was coming, and it was going to hit, but we didn’t know how far away it was or how fast it was going before it hit us,” Fox said. “I didn’t know what to expect, and neither did she. But she had indicated to me by saying, ‘For better or for worse and (in) sickness and in health,’ that she was going to hang on and get me through it, or go through it with me. And she has for 30, 35 years.”
The Michael J. Fox Foundation, which Fox established in 2000, has raised awareness and been a part of raising more than $2 billion in research funding for Parkinson’s, according to CBS News.
“We didn’t have money. We didn’t have a voice. And I thought, well, I could step in for these people and raise some hell,” Fox said.
The foundation led a clinical study earlier this year that found a protein in spinal fluid that can help detect Parkinson’s in patients, even years before they display symptoms.
Burleson, a former NFL player, also credited Fox with this and a previous interview with the star teaching him something about himself. He told Fox that he’d hid his fear as an athlete and had only recently become better at revealing those fears to his family.
“His public fight gives millions private strength,” Burleson concluded in-studio with his cohosts Gayle King and Tony Dokoupil.
The Michael J. Fox Foundation’s annual fundraiser is Saturday.