Lucky Man by Michael J. Fox Summary (Question and Answer)

Chapter Eight

CHAPTER EIGHT – Unwrapping the Gift
1 255-6 Fox tells his readers that, for a person who wanted to keep their medical condition a secret, the ‘on-off phenomenon’ was of particular significance. What is this phenomenon and why did Fox find it particularly difficult to cope with? The ‘on-off phenomenon’ expresses two conditions someone with PD would cycle between. Whilst ‘on’, their condition was completely under control and, to anyone other than a trained medical specialist, there would be no outward sign of the condition. However this changed dramatically whilst a sufferer was ‘off’ when they would suffer all of the classic symptoms which included rigidity, shuffling and severe tremors. The ‘on-off phenomenon’ was difficult for any PD patient, however it was especially significant for one who wished to keep their condition a secret because whilst ‘off’ they knew that they could not let anyone else see them.
2 257 Fox suffered from many different effects of PD including Micrographia. What is this condition and how did it help a stockbroker friend of Fox first identify that they might have a neurological problem.

Micrographia is the condition of writing using tiny letters. Whilst ‘off’, Fox found that he sufferers from this and gives an example for his readers to see.


It helped a stockbroker friend of Fox first see an expert in neurological diseases when their secretary confronted them about their shrinking handwriting and recommended that they went to see an expert.

3 262 As the third series of Spin City started to be filmed in 1998, a number of tabloids and other newspapers had begun to suspect that Fox was suffering from a ‘mystery illness’. Finally the truth seems to have leaked out but, faced with both a potential legal suit and a loss of daily sales due to a potentially negative reaction from their readers, the newspapers agreed to bury the story. What finally convinced Fox to go public with his story? Keeping the secret was becoming increasingly difficult and also increasingly stressful which itself had a detrimental effect on Fox’s health. Faced with the inevitability of the situation, and wanting to make the announcement on his own terms, Fox finally decided to go public with the story and tell the world.
4 268 During a pause in taping for an interview on the subject with Barbara Walters, Wendy and Barbara found themselves in an argument. What was this over and how was it resolved. In a pause during the filming, Barbara had seen Fox struggling to get his arm into the sleeve of his jacket. She asked him if it was a symptom of his condition. When she learned that it was she was eager to have him recreate the event on camera. Wendy opposed the idea claiming that it would look like a deliberate attempt to gain sympathy. After a brief argument, Barbara and Wendy ended up hugging each other, with Barbara announcing how lucky Fox was to have Wendy by his side.
5 272 As soon as the news hit the public, ‘all hell broke loose’. Fox was inundated with telephone calls, emails and letters from friends, acquaintances, newspapers and every media station in existence. Caught in the chaos of the event, and hating every moment of it, what happened to convince Fox that he had done the right thing? Fox was deliberately trying to avoid the media circus but decided to go online to read what was being discussed on PD websites and forums. He discovered the story of one man who had been asked why his hand was shaking. The PD patient responded by saying that he had Parkinson’s to which the person responded by saying, ‘oh, just like Michael J. Fox’. With this reaction, the PD patient writes that ‘for the first time in years I didn’t feel embarrassed’. After reading this, Fox realised that his revelation was going to do some good and educate many people about the disease. After that he realised that ‘everything is going to be OK’.
6 277 Fox writes that he learned a great deal over this period, perhaps most importantly how common it was for PD sufferers to try and hide their disease from the rest of the world. Fox claims that three important reasons for this include being ‘considered bizarre, a freak, or an object of pity’. In addition to these concerns, however, there was an even more pressing concern for many young adults. What was this? For many young adults keeping their PD a secret was a survival strategy as they were scared that, if it was public information, they would face prejudice which would damage their career, their mortgages and their bank loads among other things.
7 278 Fox claims that, even though PD is currently untreatable, modern medical science has made a number of exciting breakthroughs which leave many convinced that the question isn’t ‘if Parkinson’s disease will be cured but when.’ With so much promising and apparently exciting work to be done in the field, Fox claims that there is one reason above all others why there isn’t more research for a cure being conducted. What is this reason? Despite the promising breakthroughs which have been made, Fox argues that there is a lack of political will caused, in no small part, by the prevalence of PD suffers who choose to keep their condition a secret rather than making it public and pressing for a cure.
8 285 Returning to continue filming the third series of Spin City, Fox is nervous how the audience will respond to him now that they know about his condition. How do they respond and how does Fox feel as a result. The crowd responded very ‘positively’, ‘supportively’ and ‘generously’ resulting in Fox telling his readers that at that moment, ‘my fear that I would now and forever be defined by my disease melted away.’
9 291 After four seasons and over 100 episodes of Spin City, Fox finally decided to leave the show at the start of 2000. However, the show didn’t end. Which famous actor was brought in to take the role of deputy Mayor to replace Fox? Charlie Sheen came in to fill the roll.
10 293 With Fox’s retirement from the show, he was nominated for another Emmy. What quote does he now think would have been most appropriate for him to have said and what would this have meant. Fox now thinks that it may have been most appropriate for him to have said simply ‘now I feel five foot five’. This comment would have contrasted with the speech he made the first time he accepted an Emmy when he told the audience that he felt ‘four foot tall’. As this autobiography has shown, Fox slowly came to terms with, not only his disease, but also who he really was and wanted to be. This final comment would have represented to Fox a feeling that, for the first time, he felt no more and no less than he really was.
11 300 Since leaving Spin City, Fox has become an outspoken advocate of the need for more research into PD, arguing that: ‘The time for quietly soldering on is through. The war against Parkinson’s is a winnable war, and I have resolved to play a role in that victory’. As a result of this, Fox took a very interested stand point during the US elections in the year 2000. Why did he feel the need to write an article in the New York Times questioning George W. Bush’s policies? George W. Bush was opposed to the use of stem cell research.  Fox’s article argued that federal funds should be used to support research in this area as nothing could be more ‘pro-life’.


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