Michael J. Fox opened up about his struggles over the past year, in which he suffered multiple painful injuries and mourned the loss of his mother Phyllis, who died in September at 92.
The 61-year-old actor, who has battled Parkinson’s disease for more than 30 years, told People magazine that his health challenges have worsened with age.
The “Back to the Future” star underwent a risky spinal surgery to remove a tumor on his back and later broke his left arm in 2018, which he previously described as the worst year of his life.
“It got worse,” Fox said. “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.”
MICHAEL J. FOX REUNITES WITH HIS ‘BACK TO THE FUTURE’ COSTAR CHRISTOPHER LLOYD ON INSTAGRAM: ‘BACK TO BACK’
While the series of injuries isn’t necessarily a sign that his condition has deteriorated, Fox said that the incidents affected his usually optimistic attitude.
“I was never really a cranky guy, but I got very cranky and short with people,” he said “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.’”
However, Fox said that his spirits have improved as he has made progress in his recovery.
“I’m coming through where the last of my injuries are healing up; my arm is feeling good,” he said. “Life is interesting. It deals you these things.”
Fox told the outlet that now “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.”
As he continues to recover, Fox has had less need for those tools. Earlier this month, he was able to walk on his own while reuniting on stage with “Back to the Future” co-star Christopher Lloyd at New York Comic-Con.
“I’m just getting to where I’m walking steadily again,” the Canada native said. “I think it’s cool to walk by myself. It is. It’s fantastic.”
Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease,a progressive disorder of the central nervous system that affects movement, in 1991 but went public with his diagnosis in 1998.
PD causes tremors, balance problems and limb rigidity, among other side effects. The symptoms can be controlled with medications but the condition can’t be cured.
After revealing his diagnosis, Fox continued acting until announcing his retirement in 2020. PD can affect cognitive abilities and Fox told People magazine that he decided to retire when he found he was having trouble remembering his lines.
“I couldn’t focus on a line,” he said. “I didn’t beat myself up. I couldn’t do it, so I didn’t do it anymore.”
After retiring from acting, Fox dedicated himself to the Michael J. Fox Foundation, a nonprofit he co-founded in 2000 to help find a cure. He also told People magazine that he has been working on a new documentary project that is set to debut on Apple in 2023.
The “Curb Your Enthusiasm” alum credited his wife Tracy Pollan with supporting him throughout his struggle with Parkinson’s.
Fox and the 62-year-old actress have been married since 1988. They share son Sam, 33, twin daughters Aquinnah and Schuyler, 27, and daughter Esmé, 21.
CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP FOR THE ENTERTAINMENT NEWSLETTER
“It took me a while to get that it wasn’t just about me,” Fox said. “If I break my arm, I’m dealing with my broken arm. But if you’re the person who lives with and loves and supports the person with the broken arm, you’ve got to do everything.”
He also reflected on watching his children grow into adulthood. “My youngest [children] never knew me without Parkinson’s,” he said. “Sam was 2 or 3 when I was diagnosed. So they never knew anything else. And there’s a certain latitude you have to give someone who has Parkinson’s. You can choose how nice to be and how much to do — and how much to know not to do. That’s all about empathy.”
Despite the difficulty of the past year, Fox told People that he remains optimistic about the future. “It’s been a struggle, but I’m happy,” he said.
“I say that because I hope on some level people can find happiness in spite of what they’re going through,” Fox concluded.