Born on this day in Edmonton, Alberta, popular actor Michael J. Fox (1961-) has been fighting Parkinson's disease (PD) since 1981. "I keep making that point that I'm highly-functional," he said. "It's all good."
Pope John Paul II, Billy Graham, Muhammad Ali, Johnny Cash, and Janet Reno also have this deadly brain affliction. For Fox to have it so young is rare.
PD was first diagnosed in 1817 by English physician James Parkinson and is a degenerative nervous-system disease which leads to a shortage of the chemical dopamine. Dopamine controls movement. Primary symptoms include muscular tremors, limited movement (Bradykinesia), and lack of balance and coordination.
"It takes 10 times more energy for me to walk across the room than it does for you," he explained with his trademark self-deprecating wit to Newsweek in 2000.
His advocacy and honesty have made a difference, "almost like a moon shot," he described. The Parkinson's Action Network has been renamed the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research. He continues to raise money for research, jolt awareness, and speak out in favor of stem-cell research.
Fox will continue to fight and give hope to others. "It's not for effect and it's not as a circus performer. It's for one million others with Parkinson's disease."
He said optimism was a powerful tool in fighting Parkinson's, which he once called a "gift," much to the dismay of some with the disease. He reconsidered: "OK, if it's a gift, it's a gift that keeps on taking. I'll give you that."
"I don't have a choice about whether or not I have Parkinson's," Fox said. "But surrounding that one non-choice is an infinite amount of choices I can make."
Work to build something that will outlast you.