How Michael J. Fox Went From ‘Pain, Regret’ to Gratitude
By Cooper Dowd, Staff Writer
BACK TO THE FUTURE star Micheal J. Fox, shared how his “darkest moment” since his struggle with Parkinson’s disease began in 1998 led to an attitude of gratitude.
“It’s not that I wasn’t sincere before, but my gratitude is deeper now, from having gotten through the darkest times,” Fox said.
In 2018, Fox experienced rapid growth of a non-cancerous tumor on his spine.
“I was heading for paralysis if I didn’t get it operated on,” Fox, 59, told PEOPLE.
The operation was not straightforward: “[It] was constricting the [spinal] cord, so they had to be very careful in removing it so they wouldn’t do further damage.”
The operation was successful, and Fox believed the worst of his diagnosis was behind him. However, after Fox began the four-month process in which he had to learn to walk again, Fox fell in his kitchen and broke his arm.
“That was definitely my darkest moment,” Fox said. “I just snapped. I was leaning against the wall in my kitchen, waiting for the ambulance to come, and I felt like, ‘This is as low as it gets for me.’ It was when I questioned everything. Like, ‘I can’t put a shiny face on this. There’s no bright side to this, no upside. This is just all regret and pain.'”
Although the actor met his many trials with optimism, he said he began to lose hope after his health issues.
“Parkinson’s, my back, my arm … it still didn’t add up to moving the needle on the misery index compared to what some people go through,” Fox said. “I thought, ‘How can I tell these people, ‘Chin up. Look at the bright side. Things are going to be great”?'”
However, Fox said that gratitude sustained him through the difficult time.
“Optimism is really rooted in gratitude,” Fox said. “Optimism is sustainable when you keep coming back to gratitude, and what follows from that is acceptance. Accepting that this thing has happened, and you accept it for what it is. It doesn’t mean that you can’t endeavor to change. It doesn’t mean you have to accept it as a punishment or a penance, but just put it in its proper place. Then see how much the rest of your life you have to thrive in, and then you can move on.”
The actor turns 60 next June and is excited to spend time with his children and his wife, Tracy Pollan. The couple share son Sam, 31, twins Aquinnah and Schuyler, both 25, and a daughter Esmé, 19.
“My life now is quiet, and I’m actually having a really good time,” Fox says. “People don’t believe me, but I love life. I love being with my family. I love being with Tracy. I love that I don’t do a lot of useless stuff that I used to do, because I don’t have the energy or the time. I’m grateful that I went through a crucible there in my late 50s. I figured some of this crap out finally, and it didn’t haunt me into my 70s and 80s.”