Michael J. Fox admits he was in ‘denial’ for years after Parkinson’s diagnosis: ‘I was told I only had 10 years left to work’

Michael J. Fox admits he was in ‘denial’ for years after Parkinson’s diagnosis: ‘I was told I only had 10 years left to work’
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Michael J. Fox has given a harrowing speech in which he recalled keeping his life-changing Parkinson’s diagnosis a secret for fears it would impact his career.

The Family Ties alum was diagnosed with the neurodegenerative disorder in 1991 aged just 29, but it wasn’t until seven years later he made his health battle public.

As he accepted the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award – an honorary Oscar recognising his philanthropic efforts – at the Governors Awards in LA over the weekend, Fox said the “uncertainty” of his condition caused him to stay silent at the time.

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Michael J. Fox accepts the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award during the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences 13th Governors Awards at Fairmont Century Plaza on November 19, 2022 in Los Angeles, California.
Michael J. Fox accepts the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award during the Governors Awards in LA on November 19. (Getty)

“I was told I only had 10 years left to work. That was s—ty. That’s what happened,” he told the crowd, as per People magazine. “The hardest part of my diagnosis was grappling with the certainty of the diagnosis and the uncertainty of the situation. I only knew it would get worse. The diagnosis was definite, the progress was indefinite and uncertain.”

“Then I entered into seven years of denial, trying to make sense of it all,” he recalled. “The kid who left Canada convinced that he would make anything happen, at least by working hard and by believing, now had a tall order in front of him.”

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Michael J Fox as Marty McFly in Back to the Future.
Michael J. Fox is best known for playing Marty McFly in the Back to the Future franchise. (Universal Pictures)

The actor said he told “very few people” about his diagnosis and they all kept his “secret”.

“Then there were all kinds of doctors who helped me understand the physical processes that were at work, or not at work, in my brain, as the case may be,” he shared. “Finally, I felt like I needed to tell everybody. I understood it would have a huge impact on my career.”

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Family Ties cast. Tina Yothers as Jennifer Keaton, Brian Bonsall as Andrew 'Andy' Keaton, Michael Gross as Steven Keaton, Meredith Baxter as Elyse Keaton, Michael J. Fox as Alex P. Keaton, Justine Bateman as Mallory Keaton.
Michael J. Fox rose to fame in the ’80s sitcom Family Ties with co-stars Tina Yothers, Brian Bonsall, Michael Gross, Meredith Baxter and Justine Bateman. (Getty)

Fox eventually shared his diagnosis with respected American journalist Barbara Walters – and the aftermath of the intimate sit-down interview surprised him.

“What happened next was remarkable,” he remembered. “The outpouring of support from the public at large, the beautiful reaction from all of my peers in the entertainment business, all of you, thank you, and the people that I worked with, was transformative.”

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Crispin Glover, Lea Thompson and Michael J Fox in Back to the Future.

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