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Since going public with his Parkinson's disease diagnosis in 1998, Michael J. Fox has been an inspiration to many. And since starting his foundation two years later, he's raised over $1 billion for Parkinson's research. But, as the actor explained in a new interview, he didn't come forward with his diagnosis because he had big plans to help others and become a spokesperson for people living with Parkinson's. Instead, Fox revealed his Parkinson's diagnosis because he was being harassed by paparazzi.
Fox reflected on the situation ahead of the 20th anniversary A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Cure Parkinson's fundraiser gala. Fox started the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research in 2000, but the milestone event was pushed back a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Read on to see what Fox had to say about the paparazzi essentially forcing him to reveal his diagnosis and how that moment changed everything for him.
RELATED: See Michael J. Fox's 4 Kids All Grown Up.
Fox announced his diagnosis seven years after receiving it.
Fox was diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson's disease in 1991 when he was only 29 years old. As a reference point, this was two years after Family Ties ended and one year after the third Back to the Future movie was released. Fox shared that he had Parkinson's in a 1998 interview with People magazine. "It's made me stronger," he said at the time. "A million times wiser. And more compassionate, I've realized I'm vulnerable, that no matter how many awards I'm given or how big my bank account is, I can be messed with like that."
"Parkinson's disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement," according to the Mayo Clinic. "Symptoms start gradually, sometimes starting with a barely noticeable tremor in just one hand. Tremors are common, but the disorder also commonly causes stiffness or slowing of movement."
Paparazzi were bothering him and his neighbors.
Fox told Entertainment Tonight in a new interview that he wanted paparazzi to not only stop harassing him outside of his home, but to also stop making a commotion that bothered his neighbors. Apparently, they had taken note of some of his symptoms. "It was seven or eight years after I had been diagnosed," the actor said, "[and] the paparazzi and stuff, they would stand outside my apartment and heckle at me, like, 'What's a matter with you?' I said, 'I can't be making my neighbors deal with this,' so I came out, and it was great. It was a great thing."
He decided to take advantage of his position.
After living with Parkinson's privately for seven years, Fox decided that he would use his platform as a famous actor now that his diagnosis was public and started his foundation. "It was a great surprise to me that people responded the way they responded," he told Entertainment Tonight. "They responded with interest, in the desire to find an answer to the the disease, and then I saw that as a great opportunity. I didn't get put in this position to squander it."
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He recently shared an update on his condition.
In another new interview, Fox said that the research that has been funded by the Michael J. Fox Foundation has lead to the development of treatments that he uses himself. "They are therapies that have made life a lot better for a lot of people. I enjoy life more," he told Variety. "I'm more comfortable in my skin than I was 20 years ago. I can sit down and be calm. I couldn't do that 25 years ago. That's the medications, the drug cocktails and therapies that we've been a part of."
He also reflected on how his condition changed his outlook on life.
"I've had Parkinson's for 30 years," Fox told Entertainment Tonight. "I think it's part of my life, it's what and it's who I am and it's a struggle sometimes. I'm not gonna lie, it's really hard to get up and get ready and get out in the world [some days]. There are days that suck. [But there's] just an understanding that I will get through it. At any moment, you have a choice: I cannot get through this moment or I can get through this moment."
He also said that he doesn't "spend a lot of time" thinking about being an inspiration for other people. "I am grateful when people express to me that it means something, [that] means a lot to me. But I don't think about it. I don't get up and go, 'Oh, I'm Mr. Impact!'"