"Still": The Story of Michael J. Fox and His Life with Parkinson's Disease

The recent documentary "Still" is praised for the way it tells the story of the actor's life and his struggle with Parkinson's disease. Have you seen it yet?
"Still": The Story of Michael J. Fox and His Life with Parkinson's Disease
Leonardo Biolatto

Reviewed and approved by the doctor Leonardo Biolatto.

Written by Jonatan Menguez

Last update: 21 May, 2023

In his new biographical documentary, Still: A Michael J. Fox Film, the artist decides to tell in first person how he lives with his complex condition. The Canadian-American actor, known for his starring role in the Back to the Future trilogy, has built a parallel career as an activist for Parkinson’s disease research.

The Marty McFly interpreter has suffered from this neurodegenerative disorder for more than 30 years.

“Still”: Michael J. Fox’s life, career and activism

On Friday, May 12, the documentary Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie, directed by Davis Guggenheim, premiered on Apple TV. With rave reviews since its release, the production reveals first-person details of Fox’s life and career. However, it also places the early diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease at its center.

At just 29 years old, doctors warned Michael about the disorder. Little time had elapsed since his worldwide success with Back to the Future, so he confessed to being in denial at first. However, in 1998 he made his condition public and, 2 years later, created the Michael J. Fox Foundation, aimed at researching the disease.

What symptoms did Michael J. Fox have at first?

The actor said he felt the first symptoms in his little finger, while he was working on the filming of the movie Doc Hollywood. This is a common manifestation during the early stages of the disease.

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative pathology that affects nerve cells or neurons, reducing the production of dopamine.

This causes different motor symptoms, which worsen as the disease progresses, as it’s a chronic and irreversible condition. Some of its most frequent symptoms are the following.

What is the extent of Parkinson’s disease?

According to the book Parkinson’s Disease: Pathogenesis and Clinical Aspects, it’s such a complex condition that the specific mechanisms are not yet fully understood. Experts indicate that it’s the second most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s, especially affecting people over 60 years old.

The World Health Organization (WHO) published in 2019 that more than 8.5 million people suffer from it in the world. While the site parkinson.org establishes a figure of 10 million. As for the factors involved in the onset of the disease, they’re diverse and include genetic and environmental conditions.

As the aforementioned publication suggests, age is the biggest risk factor, but also certain habits, such as smoking and caffeine consumption, as well as genetic issues. However, the current evidence is not sufficient to establish determinant risk factors, beyond genetic ones.

Prevention and treatment of Parkinson’s disease

Although it’s a disease related to genetics and has no defined cure, different healthy habits could help to prevent it. For example:

  • Eating a balanced diet
  • Avoiding consumption of tobacco and alcohol
  • Doing physical activity
  • Getting good sleep

On the other hand, a study published in the journal Brain Sciences showed that dancing has positive effects on the mental well-being and motor skills of patients. The treatment of Parkinson’s disease is usually characterized by the administration of drugs aimed at restoring the level of dopamine.

For example, levodopa, with which Fox has been controlling his condition for years. However, studies suggest that levodopa treatment loses effectiveness over time. Therefore, an increase in the dosage is called for.

In addition, in 1998, the actor underwent a thalamotomy. This is a surgical procedure that consists of removing a small part of the thalamus, which controls certain involuntary movements.

“Still” reflects the work of Michael J. Fox in the fight against Parkinson’s

All these reasons make it particularly important for organizations that continue to work to discover new treatments for the disease. In this regard, the outreach work carried out by Michael J. Fox during his career has received a new impetus with the release of the documentary.

The actor has received several awards for his work with the foundation, which has raised more than 1.2 billion dollars. The foundation is responsible for funding research and providing support to Parkinson’s patients.

A few years ago, Fox had already published a book entitled Lucky Man, in which he discusses some aspects of the disease and its treatment. However, in Still, the prestigious actor presents a new and massive opportunity to raise awareness through his personal story.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Antonina Kouli, Kelli M. Torsney, and Wei-Li Kuan. (2018). Parkinson’s Disease: Pathogenesis and Clinical Aspects [Internet]. Chapter 1: Parkinson’s Disease: Etiology, Neuropathology, and Pathogenesis. Stoker TB, Greenland JC, editors. Consultado el 18 de mayo de 2023. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK536722/
  • Armstrong, M. J., & Okun, M. S. (2020). Diagnosis and Treatment of Parkinson Disease: A Review. JAMA, 323(6), 548–560. Consultado el 18 de mayo de 2023. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2019.22360
  • Bearss, K. A. & De Souza, J. F. X. (2021) Parkinson’s Disease Motor Symptom Progression Slowed with Multisensory Dance Learning over 3-Years: A Preliminary Longitudinal Investigation. Brain Sci. 2021, 11(7), 895. Consultado el 18 de mayo de 2023. https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11070895
  • Hurtado, F., Cardenas, M. A. N., Cardenas, F. P., & León, L. A. (2016). La Enfermedad de Parkinson: Etiología, Tratamientos y Factores Preventivos. Universitas Psychologica, 15(5). Consultado el 18 de mayo de 2023. https://www.redalyc.org/journal/647/64750042012/64750042012.pdf

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.