Michael J. Fox on overcoming ‘seven years of denial’ following his Parkinson’s disease diagnosis

Back to the Future alum Michael J. Fox discussed how he and his career were affected by Parkinson’s disease while accepting the Jean Hershult Humanitarian Award at the 13th Governors Awards on Saturday.

‘I was on top of the world.’ I had a hit television show, two movies in the can and it was all good in the neighborhood,” the Canadian-American 61-year-old recalled during his 13-minute acceptance speech.

‘Somewhere in there around 29 I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. I was told I only had 10 years left to work. That was s****y. That’s what happened. The hardest part of my diagnosis was grappling with the certainty of the diagnosis and the uncertainty of the situation. I only knew that it would get worse. The diagnosis was definite. The progress was indefinite and uncertain.’

Fighter: Back to the Future alum Michael J. Fox discussed how he and his career were affected by Parkinson’s disease while accepting the Jean Hershult Humanitarian Award at the 13th Governors Awards on Saturday

Michael was diagnosed with the degenerative disorder of the central nervous system in 1991 while shooting Michael Caton-Jones’ rom-com Doc Hollywood in Florida, and he became so depressed he abused alcohol for the next year.

Fox previously wrote in his 2002 memoir Lucky Man that he got sober in 1992 after seeing the ‘indifferent’ look on his wife Tracy Pollan’s face as he woke up on the sofa hungover as their baby son crawled on him.

‘Tracy made it clear that she was with me for the duration,’ the eighties icon said.

‘Then I entered into seven years of denial, trying to make sense of it all. The kid who left Canada, convinced that he would make anything happen just by working hard and by believing, now had a tall order in front of him. I told very few people. And they kept my secret.’

The Canadian-American 61-year-old recalled: 'I was on top of the world.  I had a hit television show, two movies in the can and it was all good in the neighborhood'

The Canadian-American 61-year-old recalled: ‘I was on top of the world. I had a hit television show, two movies in the can and it was all good in the neighborhood’

Michael continued: 'Somewhere in there around 29 I was diagnosed with Parkinson's.  I was told I only had 10 years left to work.  That was s****y'

Michael continued: ‘Somewhere in there around 29 I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. I was told I only had 10 years left to work. That was s****y’

Downward spiral: Fox was diagnosed with the degenerative disorder of the central nervous system in 1991 while shooting Michael Caton-Jones' rom-com Doc Hollywood in Florida, and he became so depressed he abused alcohol for the next year.

Downward spiral: Fox was diagnosed with the degenerative disorder of the central nervous system in 1991 while shooting Michael Caton-Jones’ rom-com Doc Hollywood in Florida, and he became so depressed he abused alcohol for the next year.

Moment of clarity: The eighties icon previously wrote in his 2002 memoir Lucky Man that he got sober in 1992 after seeing the 'indifferent' look on his wife Tracy Pollan's face as he woke up on the sofa hungover as their baby son crawled on him

Moment of clarity: The eighties icon previously wrote in his 2002 memoir Lucky Man that he got sober in 1992 after seeing the ‘indifferent’ look on his wife Tracy Pollan’s face as he woke up on the sofa hungover as their baby son crawled on him

Michael eventually made the brave decision to go public with his diagnosis in 1998 by doing interviews with People Magazine and ABC’s Barbara Walters.

‘What happened next was remarkable,’ Fox marveled.

‘The outpouring of support from the public at large and the beautiful reaction from all of my peers in the entertainment business. All of you, thank you, and the people that I work with. It was transformative.

The Officer of the Order of Canada added: ‘It struck me that everything I had been given – success, my life with Tracy, my family – had prepared me for this profound opportunity and responsibility. It was a gift.

Michael said: 'Tracy (R) made it clear that she was with me for the duration'

Michael said: ‘Tracy (R) made it clear that she was with me for the duration’

Fox said: 'Then I entered into seven years of denial, trying to make sense of it all.  The kid who left Canada, convinced that he would make anything happen just by working hard and by believing, now had a tall order in front of him.  I told very few people.  And they kept my secret'

Fox said: ‘Then I entered into seven years of denial, trying to make sense of it all. The kid who left Canada, convinced that he would make anything happen just by working hard and by believing, now had a tall order in front of him. I told very few people. And they kept my secret’

'The outpouring of support was transformative': The Officer of the Order of Canada eventually made the brave decision to go public with his diagnosis in 1998 by doing interviews with People Magazine and ABC's Barbara Walters

‘The outpouring of support was transformative’: The Officer of the Order of Canada eventually made the brave decision to go public with his diagnosis in 1998 by doing interviews with People Magazine and ABC’s Barbara Walters

'There was nothing heroic about what I did': In 2000, Michael officially launched the Michael J. Fox Foundation, which has raised over $1.5B for Parkinson's research, therapeutic programs, clinical trials, and a dataset/biosample library

‘There was nothing heroic about what I did’: In 2000, Michael officially launched the Michael J. Fox Foundation, which has raised over $1.5B for Parkinson’s research, therapeutic programs, clinical trials, and a dataset/biosample library

Support system: Fox and his 62-year-old wife of 34 years were joined at LA's Fairmont Century Plaza by their four adult children - son Sam, 33;  twin daughters Aquinnah & Schuyler, 27;  and daughter Esme, 21

Support system: Fox and his 62-year-old wife of 34 years were joined at LA’s Fairmont Century Plaza by their four adult children – son Sam, 33; twin daughters Aquinnah & Schuyler, 27; and daughter Esme, 21

In 2000, Michael officially launched the Michael J. Fox Foundation, which has raised over $1.5B for Parkinson’s research, therapeutic programs, clinical trials, and a dataset/biosample library.

‘There was nothing heroic about what I did,’ Fox said.

‘I am so grateful to all these people and thousands more who will make a world without Parkinson’s a reality…It’s humbling in the deepest way to stand here today and accept your kindness and approbation when truly the effort is being driven by others so deserving of this attention.’

Wth his shiny new honorary Oscar, the Family Ties alum – whose mother Phyllis died in September – became only a Tony Award shy from elite EGOT status.

Curtain call: The Family Ties alum officially retired from acting after voicing Michael J. Bird in Michael Mankowski's 30-minute short Back Home Again about the largest wildfire evacuations in Canadian History

Curtain call: The Family Ties alum officially retired from acting after voicing Michael J. Bird in Michael Mankowski’s 30-minute short Back Home Again about the largest wildfire evacuations in Canadian History

BFFs: Earlier this month, Michael and his Back to the Future co-star Christopher Lloyd (L) teamed up to co-design a line of merchandise celebrating Robert Zemeckis' hit trilogy

BFFs: Earlier this month, Michael and his Back to the Future co-star Christopher Lloyd (L) teamed up to co-design a line of merchandise celebrating Robert Zemeckis’ hit trilogy

Michael and his 62-year-old wife of 34 years were joined at LA’s Fairmont Century Plaza by their four adult children – son Sam, 33; twin daughters Aquinnah & Schuyler, 27; and daughter Esme, 21.

Fox officially retired from acting after voicing Michael J. Bird in Michael Mankowski’s 30-minute short Back Home Again about the largest wildfire evacuations in Canadian history.

Earlier this month, the New York Times bestselling author and his Back to the Future co-star Christopher Lloyd teamed up to co-design a line of merchandise celebrating Robert Zemeckis’ hit trilogy.

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