“I woke up to find the message in my left hand. It had me trembling. It wasn’t a fax, a telegram, a memo, or the usual sort of missive bringing disturbing news. In fact, my hand held nothing at all. The trembling was the message.”
That was in 1990, back when the entire world was completely oblivious that anything was even remotely wrong inside of Michael J. Fox’s body. He was fresh off a success with Back to the Future: Part II, Doc Hollywood was invading theaters, and he was hard at work filming The Hard Way. He seemed to have the world at his fingertips, but that’s exactly when those fingertips began to shake, the early precursors that the boyish actor had Parkinson’s disease.
I too was oblivious, laughing at Michael J. Fox’s pratfalls in comedy after comedy, and his wonderful stuntwork in action films, but in his memoir, he talks frankly about how afraid he was, not just over the shaking, but over anyone finding out about it. After getting the diagnosis he was intent on keeping everything as they always had been. In fact, he even signed on for a new television show in 1996, thinking he would be able to still keep things hidden. But that wasn’t the case.
The book is separated into dates, chronicling the life journey of Michael J. Fox, up to and including his surprising announcement in 1998 that he did indeed have Parkinson’s disease, and his fight to get awareness and research into finding a cure. He is quite frank in its pages about his reactions to the sickness, walking readers through his stages of denial, finally coming to a sort of acceptance. It is at once devastating and uplifting to read his words and travel through his roiling emotions during the time periods before and after the announcement to the world.
“Though I couldn’t yet comprehend the ultimate outcome of Parkinson’s takeover of my body and, with it, my life, my instincts told me to start negotiating now, fiercely, for preemptive control in whatever areas that was still possible.”
Throughout Lucky Man, there is a sense of beauty in chaos, of order in the midst of anarchy. The way Fox discusses the disease and its effects on him is as graphic as possible, but while ruminating on that he is also able to find a ray of sunshine that keeps his mood optimistic. That is what I admire the most about the man I became acquainted with through this memoir, his determination to be himself and never let the disease “win.”
“Parkinson’s. It’s the gift that keeps on taking.”
I give this book FIVE stars, and I highly recommend its follow-up as well, Always Looking Up.