Lucky Man – Michael J. Fox

Lucky Man – Michael J. FoxLucky Man: A Memoir by Michael J. Fox

In September 1998, Michael J. Fox stunned the world by announcing he had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease -- a degenerative neurological condition. In fact, he had been secretly fighting it for seven years. The worldwide response was staggering. Fortunately, he had accepted the diagnosis and by the time the public started grieving for him, he had stopped grieving for himself. Now, with the same passion, humor, and energy that Fox has invested in his dozens of performances over the last 18 years, he tells the story of his life, his career, and his campaign to find a cure for Parkinson's.

Combining his trademark ironic sensibility and keen sense of the absurd, he recounts his life -- from his childhood in a small town in western Canada to his meteoric rise in film and television which made him a worldwide celebrity. Most importantly however, he writes of the last 10 years, during which -- with the unswerving support of his wife, family, and friends -- he has dealt with his illness. He talks about what Parkinson's has given him: the chance to appreciate a wonderful life and career, and the opportunity to help search for a cure and spread public awareness of the disease. He is a very lucky man, indeed.

This is the first book in the series of memoirs written by Michael J. Fox. I scribbled a few words about the second book in the series here because why should I do the right thing and read books in the correct order at my time of life.

This book is as good as the second book. It starts off with his life with his family and how he came to be in show business. It gradually moves on to his diagnosis with Parkinson’s Disease and how he coped with it. Or rather, how he took his medications and didn’t cope with it. This book is a good example of how it is possible to almost destroy yourself and then come back from the brink to reinvent yourself into a new role. His wife must be a wonderful person to sit there and watch what was happening without being allowed to help.

I’m in awe of people who can take a diagnosis and then move on with their lives, but to do this in the public eye is even more awe inspiring. Michael J. Fox was diagnosed in 1991 after starring in both Family Ties and Back to the Future parts I, II and III. He was filming both the TV series and the movies at the same time, it was a gruelling schedule but he made it through. One thing Fox notes is that while he was diagnosed in 1991, at the age of 29, he had been having the symptoms for some years prior to that. And those symptoms made his job that much harder. In Back to the Future III he had to recreate a scene from Back to the Future and he found this harder to act out as his body wasn’t responding as well as it had in the first movie. At that point he thought it was just him getting older. He had noticed he wasn’t responding as he had and Fox thought his acting was getting better, in actual fact he was exhibiting symptoms of Parkinson’s.

The first symptom he noticed was the finger on his left hand. It was twitching. It continued to twitch and continued. There are several possible diagnoses where the symptom is a twitching finger. When I do a quick google I get this website. I noticed the same problem with my little finger a while ago. I stopped and looked at it with interest, then googled. I looked at a couple of websites and figured my problem was almost certainly stress rather than anything else. Back in 1991 there was much less information on the web and if I’d had a twitchy finger I would have gone to the doctor and looked like a hypochondriac. It twitched for several minutes, I was intrigued rather than worried. And now there is an enormous amount of information freely available so anyone noticing this symptom (it’s very noticeable, as of now my finger has stopped, Fox’s finger kept going) would be able to google and find that they might need to see their doctor.

One thing this book does is to illustrate why it is sometimes important for someone already in the public eye to announce they have a health problem. During filming for the fourth season of Spin City Fox announced he’d be retiring from the show due to his diagnosis. After doing a lot of interviews he promptly started receiving fan mail. In this book he only mentions positive mail. What he did is he validated everyone with Parkinson’s Disease. Not just Parkinson’s Disease contracted later in life but Young Adult Onset Parkinson’s Disease. An illness that can afflict people in their prime working life and who have trouble telling their workplace as they fear they will no longer be able to work.

Essentially, because he was a TV and movie star when he came out and told of his illness Fox became their hero and ended up speaking for those with Parkinson’s, especially those with Young Adult Onset Parkinson’s. All of a sudden he was able to spearhead a foundation to pay for research. What is not in the book as the information is too new but I’ve heard new research may be able to halt the progression of the disease, not cure it but make things easier for those who suffer from it. I can’t find the announcement at this moment, but I do recall seeing it come across my computer in the last couple of weeks since finishing this book.

And because I found the book really interesting I’m giving you a link so you can buy it yourself…if you choose. Here is an affiliate link.