Michael J. Fox, the actor who embodied Alex Keaton on the classic TV sitcom Family Ties, and Marty McFly in the Back to the Futures movies, has since the late 1990s become the public face of resistance to Parkinson’s disease. The progression of the disease has only recently forced him to retire from acting, and he gave an interview to AARP Magazine about that difficult decision.
Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative disorder that strikes the neurons in the brain. It can develop slowly over many years. Its symptoms include tremors, slowed movement, and stiffness in the limbs. Fox says that the visual manifestations, what observers can see in his movements, is not the heart of the disorder. “It’s what you can’t see—the lack of an inner gyroscope, of a sense of balance, of peripheral perception. I mean, I’m sailing a ship on stormy seas on the brightest of days.”
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As an activist, Fox has supported legislation designed to open to door for embryonic stem cell research, which may well hold the key to a cure for Parkinson’s. He helped Claire McCaskill defeat Senator Jim Talent’s campaign for reelection to the U.S. Senate in 2006 over this very issue, because McCaskill shared his view of “the science that gives us the chance for hope.”