How Michael J. Fox Stays Positive While Living With Parkinson's Disease: 'Pity Is a Benign Form of Abuse'

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Michael J. Fox does not have time to feel sorry for himself. During a screening for his documentary, Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie, at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival earlier this week, the 61-year-old actor opened up during a Q&A about being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1991 and going public with his diagnosis in 1998.

When asked how he was able to draw such awareness to the disease, Fox said (per multiple new outlets), "I didn't have a choice. This is it. I have to give everything I have, and it's not lip service. I show up and do the best I can."

According to the Mayo Clinic, "Parkinson's disease is a progressive disorder that affects the nervous system and the parts of the body controlled by the nerves."

Fox added of his condition, "Pity is a benign form of abuse. I can feel sorry for myself, but I don't have time for that. There is stuff to be learned from this, so let's do that and move on."

Tracy Pollan and Michael J. Fox

Michael J. Fox and wife Tracy Pollan attend 'Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie' during SXSW at The Paramount Theatre on March 14, 2023 in Austin, Texas.

Rick Kern/FilmMagic

During the Q&A, the Family Ties star was joined by the documentary's director, Davis Guggenheim, and he spoke about why he decided to make this film. 

"My fans have basically given me my life," Fox shared. "I wanted to give these people who have done so much for me my time and gratitude. It was great for me to hear from all of you."

The actor told Guggenheim, "Parkinson's sucks, but it's a great life, so thank you for it."

"I have no regrets," Fox continued.

As for choosing to be a working actor after his diagnosis, he noted, "You do what you have to do, but you do not want to kill yourself. And that's when I stopped."

Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie "follows the life of beloved actor and advocate Michael J. Fox, exploring his personal and professional triumphs and travails, and what happens when an incurable optimist confronts an incurable disease," according to the logline.

Davis Guggenheim and Michael J. Fox

Davis Guggenheim and Michael J. Fox speak at the Q&A for 'Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie' at SXSW Film Festival on March 14, 2023 in Austin, Texas.

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for SXSW

Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease when he was just 29 years old. Since then, he's become a vocal advocate of funding research and increasing awareness for the disease, raising a staggering $1.5 billion over the last two decades. In October, Fox told ET that he's feeling "good," though every day brings something new to tackle. 

"I don't think there's anything like a typical day at all, ever," he shared. "Not to get too heavy about it, my health issues have given me every different day, so it's been how I deal with that. It can be different but consistently, it's good. I mean, I love my family, I love my work, I love my situation, I'm happy." 

For Fox, thinking of "the alternative" is what keeps him positive. 

"The alternative isn't good," he mused to ET. "So, no, I just love life and it's a matter of acceptance. The more you accept, the more you are grateful for it, because you see the contrast between what's good and what's not and what you have in your life. My family, my career and the people I meet every day."


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