Decades after going public with his Parkinson’s disease diagnosis, Michael J. Fox is revealing the details of a recent ailment that almost left him paralyzed.
Speaking with this week’s PEOPLE, the 59-year-old actor says that a series of unfortunate events over the past few years led to “the darkest moment” of his life.
It started in 2018 when he was diagnosed with a tumor on his spine. Although it was noncancerous, it was growing rapidly and causing serious pain.
“I was heading for paralysis if I didn’t get it operated on,” said Fox. “[The tumor] was constricting the [spinal] cord, so they had to be very careful in removing it so they wouldn’t do further damage.”
The operation was a success and Fox embarked on a four-month journey to learn to walk again. But he wasn’t out of the woods yet. Once he felt that he was ready to work again, he returned to his New York City home to prepare for a cameo in a Spike Lee film.
But on the morning of the shoot, he fell in his kitchen and broke his arm. He details the account in his upcoming memoir, No Time Like the Future.
“I just snapped,” writes Fox. “I was leaning against the wall in my kitchen, waiting for the ambulance to come, and I felt like, ‘This is as low as it gets for me.’ It was when I questioned everything. Like, ‘I can’t put a shiny face on this. There’s no bright side to this, no upside. This is just all regret and pain.'”
“Parkinson’s, my back, my arm … it still didn’t add up to moving the needle on the misery index compared to what some people go through,” he continues. “I thought, ‘How can I tell these people, “Chin up. Look at the bright side. Things are going to be great”?'”
But Fox didn’t only spend his recovery period working to restore movement—he also fine-tuned his mindset.
“Optimism is sustainable when you keep coming back to gratitude,” he says. “And what follows from that is acceptance. Accepting that this thing has happened, and you accept it for what it is. It doesn’t mean that you can’t endeavor to change. It doesn’t mean you have to accept it as a punishment or a penance, but just put it in its proper place. Then see how much the rest of your life you have to thrive in, and then you can move on.”
“It’s not that I wasn’t sincere before, but my gratitude is deeper now, from having gotten through the darkest times,” he adds. “People don’t believe me, but I love life. I love being with my family. I love being with Tracy. I love that I don’t do a lot of useless stuff that I used to do, because I don’t have the energy or the time. I’m grateful that I went through a crucible there in my late 50s. I figured some of this crap out finally, and it didn’t haunt me into my 70s and 80s.”