Saturday, May 9, 2009

Always Looking Up by Michael J. Fox

Fox intrigues me simply because he went the opposite direction with his Parkinson's diagnosis than my dad did with his. After reading this book, I'm more impressed than ever. Fox began exhibiting symptoms of PD when he was 29 but brushed them off as overexertion. The actual PD diagnosis brought a some depression and a time of keeping it to himself. He continued to act on Spin City until the symptoms just couldn't be contained anymore.

This book is divided up into 4 sections: Work, Politics, Faith, Family. These are the 4 areas of his life that keep him going. The Work section describes his decision to give up his acting career and basically step aside. What he didn't know at the time was that he would create a Foundation that would take the place of his acting career. Fox created the Michael J Fox Foundation to fund research to cure PD. He eventually wants his Foundation to go out of business because that would mean that PD was cured.

The Politics section describes how he placed himself in the arena to advocate on the behalf of the millions of PD patients and the millions of other patients who could benefit from stem cell research. He has crisscrossed the country backing politicians who support stem cell research without regard for party lines (he can safely take a stand as the MJF Foundation receives no government funding. Chris Reeve couldn't because his Foundation did receive government funding). Most people will probably remember the Rush controversy, ie. Rush making an ass of himself by mocking Fox's commercial for Claire Gaskill and saying that Fox is acting or deliberately not taking his medicine. I remember being pissed because I knew how bad PD is WITH medicine. How Fox looked in his commercial looked like a good day.

The Faith sections expounds on Fox's childhood religious views (there weren't many) and how things have evolved since marrying Tracy, who is Jewish. They raised their children as Jewish but Fox has kept an open mind about all regligious aspects, being more curious than anything.

The last section delves into his Family. He talks about his kids, how they bond and how they handle "Shaky Dad".

Fox is a good storyteller and makes you laugh about the issues he has had to deal with having PD. It's a nice change because as I said, my dad has taken the opposite tack. No humor with lots of self-pity.

Fox's story is inspiring and the work he has done for stem cell research is amazing. His Foundation, in the short time it's been open, has done more for stem cell research and PD research than any other Foundation or government-sponsored program. With Obama as POTUS now and having lifted the ban on stem cell research, Fox may get his wish of having to close his Foundation down.
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