Michael J. Fox On Facing Parkinson's With His Family

03/17/2009 at 04:00 PM ET
Michael Loccisano/FilmMagic

Since being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 1991, at times Michael J. Fox finds himself considering the toll his health has taken on his family. However, all it takes is an outsider to ask how he is coping with his life to put things back into perspective for the actor. “I think, cope?! It’s really hard to even think that way,” he admits in April’s issue of Good Housekeeping. “Sometimes I’ll stop and think, ‘Am I selling short the experience my family is having?’ But then I’ll look back at it and say no — they’re having fun.”

Melting away his initial worries is the fact that, according to Michael, his kids — Sam Michael, 19, twins Aquinnah Kathleen and Schuyler Frances, 14 and Esmé Annabelle, 7 — have willingly stepped up to the plate when needed most. “And you know, with Parkinson’s, my kids just make that transition,” he explains. “If I’m reaching for something, they’ll just do it and carry on.” While there is no argument that the family has faced its share of hard times, the father of four says his kids have managed to come away from the experience with a sense of maturity and wisdom, which, most likely, would never have been addressed. “[My kids have learned] empathy, resilience, and also sorting out what’s important from what’s not — things like vanity,” he shares.

That being said, Michael believes the teaching has become a two-way street. Realizing that there is “not one moment that is frozen in time,” the 47-year-old’s outlook on life has him savoring each second with his kids. According to Michael, the same goes for his illness. “I’m not feeling particularly steady right now, but this is not going to last for more than a couple of minutes,” he explains. “Same with raising kids. There are no moments you have frozen in amber. It’s moving, it’s changing, so appreciate what’s good about right now and be ready for what’s next.” His parenting advice? Choose your battles carefully!

“I remember my son wanted to go to bed with his cowboy boots on, and we had this fight for like an hour. Then I realized that the only good reason I had for him not to do it is because I didn’t want him to. There was really no other reason. And finally I said, ‘Okay, fine.’ It was a great victory for me because I realized it doesn’t really matter.”

More on the family’s favorite pastime and Michael’s determination to have a big brood below.

For the family man, his positive attitude in raising “a really affectionate family” that can’t help but “laugh a lot,” has him and his wife Tracy often taking some much-needed time to sit back and relax. Sharing that their favorite pastime includes traveling “up to the country,” and popping in a movie, Michael admits that — with four kids and two adults — things can get quite crowded! “It’s not unusual to make popcorn and then for all six of us to climb into bed and watch TV — just bodies everywhere,” he says.

While Michael loves the quality time spent together with his family, he admits that the path that led the couple to having four children was one met with resistance. Following his diagnosis, the actor reveals that in addition to his decision to quit drinking, his marriage had also hit a rough patch. Despite the hardship, an undeterred Michael dreamed of having more children. “For a while there, every time I brought it up, [Tracy] changed the subject,” he says. “And then one day we were watching Sam run through the bushes with one of his cousins, and Tracy turned to me and said, ‘He’d be a great brother.’ I knew then that she was ready to have more kids; that she trusted me [enough] to have more kids with me.” One trip to the doctor and the couple realized they had been doubly blessed!

“And the Good Housekeeping Seal was when we got the sonogram and it was twins. That’s when you kinda knew. An extra one, a bonus baby.”

Source: Good Housekeeping

FILED UNDER: News , Parenting

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Showing 14 comments

Hea on

He seems like such a wonderful man. I wish him all the best and I hope they somehow find a cure before it’s too late.

The part about the cowboy boots made me smile and nod my head. Things like that, in the long run, don’t matter at all. My cousins son slept with his soccer shoes on every night for a month.🙂

Niki on

I just love him so much! And even though I hate that he is having to go through it, I am grateful that he has put a face to Parkinson’s. It is a battle that we fight close to home. My father-in-law has it and my MIL has Multiple Sclerosis, so its a battle every day for both of them, just as I am sure it is with Michael J. Fox.

Jennifer on

I absolutely *heart* Michael J Fox!

stephanie on

I adore Michael J fox, he seems so lovely🙂

kat on

I admire this man so much… he’s done a lot for Parkinson’s and he’s also managed to keep a marriage going despite paparazzi and everyone else’s eyes on them… and to raise 4 beautiful kids, too… what more can one ask of a man?

HeatherR on

How can you not love Michael J. Fox? He is just one of a kind! 🙂

Denise on

While I hate to think of anyone at all suffering from this disease, I love that he has given such a dignified public face to Parkinson’s. My father has it as well, and while 10 years ago they would have had absolutely nothing in common physically, I now see so many similarities in his face and Michael J. Fox’s face. He’s right, too. As a child of a Parkinson’s sufferer, you learn to just help them where they need to and go about your day.

My dad was diagnosed right before my first was born. We joke that it was God’s gift to me as a new mom. My dad’s medicine wasn’t regulated well at that point, and he still had the stereotypical tremors. My very colicky daughter was only soothed by my dad’s rhythmic shaking hands while he walked up and down the halls of my parents’ house with her! Thankfully they lived just across the street, so we often had late night visits for walks with Papa! He felt happy that it was something he could do for her, and they are still super close to this day.

Here’s hoping for my dad, Michael J. Fox, and all other Parkinson’s sufferers that a cure is found soon!

amelita on

What an awesome guy!

Heather on

Micheal has always been a favorite of mine.
My Father is dieing so I know the feeling
they are going through. Michaels passion
for life is unstoppible! His wife is always
by his side she’s amazing, some wifes can not
face this. His children light up his life
and I see how he looks to them for his healing.
When your parent is ill you learn to grow up
quicker but you also learn compassion for others
who are sick or disabled..ect. One good out of
having illness.. your children will cherish every
moment with you.
I wish his all the best. Love and God Bless

Tamara on

His wife is an actor too, she’s Tracy Pollan

norma nelson on

good luck to you micheal,parkinsons is a troublesome disease,it can make your life really rough at times,but can’t break the persons spirit if not let be.god bless’s those who help themselves.keep the faith and continue the great work..my prayers are with you..

Trinda Tarling on

Hi, I am a 42 year old, married mother of four boys. I was diagnosed with Parkinsons last April/08, it has been quite a ride, some very dark times and with each passing day, some noted light. I live in a rural community in Northern B.C., Canada, and as you can well imagine, there is very little support and I am trying to bring some awareness and education to our community. There are days where I feel like I am not making any difference, but then I read about Michael J. Fox and his family, and they inspire me to keep on going. I believe I have been given this disease because I have a voice and I am going to keep on going until there is a cure. I feel a connection to Michael because we are both married with four children and we are both from B.C., Canada. Thank you for sharing your most intimate moments with all of us, my family and I are grateful and you are an inspiration to so many, including us.

Lis on

Denise, your little story brought tears to my eyes. God bless you and your family🙂

Dr. Russ Buss on

When talking with a parent of a 7 to 15 year old who has been laid off work in these tough times, I point out or confirm their conclusion that a great benefit of being laid off is being able to spend so much more time with their kids. We can redo a lot of things, but we can never get back the golden years of our childrens’ lives, ages 7-15. Take time and enjoy them now when you can. So even in a dark time, there is something to be optimistic about.

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