As a child of the 1980s, I grew up with Marty McFly among other Michael J. Fox movie and TV characters. These days Fox is world renowned for his experience with, and advocacy of, Parkinson’s disease. Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist is Fox’s second autobiographical book. He is very open about his continued struggles with Parkinson's, but at the same time he is optimistic about his life.
Fox describes his life after the TV series Spin City. He ends his career with Spin City feeling he can’t carry on because of the progression of his Parkinson's. He goes on to channel his energy into the Michael J. Fox Foundation, which ploughs money straight into Parkinson's research. He wants the foundation to be made redundant within a decade because his ultimate aim is to find a cure.
I found his accounts of living with Parkinson's to be relatable to any long-term health condition. He describes having to tweak drug levels up or down to get the right balance of symptom control and tolerable side effects. He most certainly has an optimistic attitude towards it. He has periods of time when he can forget about his disease. He describes not knowing how bad his symptoms are until he sees video footage of himself moving around.
Fox involves himself in politics for the sake of advancing the search for a cure. He recounts using his celebrity to influence the decision-makers by making advertising to endorse candidates who are pro-stem cell research. He also talks about some of the other celebrities he relates to, and meets - in particular cyclist Lance Armstrong, who went through cancer, and former boxing great Mohammed Ali, who also has Parkinson’s.
Fox has an amazingly supportive wife and four children. While the disease is a big part of his life, you get the impression that it’s secondary to his family, his faith and his optimism. His story is relatable, funny and offers hope for the future.
Reviewed by Gina Giordani, Programmes Administrator at the Mental Health Foundation