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'Back to the Future' star Michael J, Fox, who has Parkinson's, believes he won't reach 80

By NICK GARCIA Published May 01, 2023 4:16 pm

Back to the Future star Michael J. Fox, who's been battling Parkinson's disease for over three decades, believes he won't reach 80.

In an interview with CBS Sunday Morning as reported by The Los Angeles Times, the 61-year-old Fox said he's been thinking about the "mortality" that comes with Parkinson's, and how it's "banging on the door."

“I’m not gonna lie. It’s getting hard, it’s getting tougher. Every day, it’s tougher," he said. "But that’s the way it is. I mean, you know, who do I see about that?”

“I’m not gonna be 80. I’m not gonna be 80," added Fox, who was diagnosed with the disease in 1991 when he was just 29, a "scary" moment in his life as he's fresh off the success of the 1985 sci-fi classic and sitcom Family Ties, which aired from 1982 to 1989.

Parkinson's is a brain disorder that causes unintended or uncontrollable movements.

According to the United States' National Institute on Aging, symptoms happen when neurons, which produce dopamine or "happy hormones," become impaired and/or die. The less dopamine levels lead to the movement problems associated with Parkinson's.

Scientists still do not know what causes the neurons to die.

Usually beginning gradually and worsening overtime, main symptoms include:

  • Tremor in hands, arms, legs, jaw, or head
  • Muscle stiffness, where muscle remains contracted for a long time
  • Slowness of movement
  • Impaired balance and coordination, sometimes leading to falls

Other symptoms include depression and other emotional changes; difficulty swallowing, chewing, and speaking; urinary problems; and skin problems.

Parkinson's has no cure, though medicines and therapies can help relieve some symptoms.

Fox's health has deteriorated further after undergoing spinal surgery in 2018 to remove a tumor. The surgery forced him to learn to walk again—and eventually broke his arm, elbow, face, and hand, he told CBS Sunday Morning.

He noted that it's the falling that's a "big killer," as well as “aspirating food and getting pneumonia.”

All these subtle ways that get you,” he said. “You don’t die from Parkinson’s. You die with Parkinson’s.”

Despite his diagnosis, the coming years still saw Fox in different roles, including political comedy Spin City, animated comedy franchise Stuart Little, and sitcom The Michael J. Fox Show.  He also had supporting roles in television shows The Good Wife, Designated Survivor, and Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Fox retired from acting in 2020.