For Michael J. Fox, being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease was like being stuck in the middle of the street with your feet in concrete, knowing the bus is coming but unable to move.
But the beloved Canadian actor had a choice, as he told the 2,000 people who showed up to the Halifax Metro Centre to hear the Atlantic Dream Festival’s keynote speaker on Wednesday.
Did he give up or charge ahead?
Anyone familiar with the unstoppable force that is Michael J. Fox knows he opted for the latter.
“Did I ask ‘why me?’ No,” said Fox. “Did I say ‘why not me,’ No. I believe I said ‘this is bulls**t.’”
“This might not be the life I expected but my happiness would grow in direct proportion to my acceptance and inverse proportion to my expectation.”
The three-time Emmy award winner, still blessed with loads of boyish charm, laid out his story of joy, pain and of overcoming massive odds with humour aplenty.
The years I spent coming to terms with Parkinson’s disease were the best years of my life - Michael J. Fox
After being diagnosed with the debilitating disease in 1991, Fox was told his career would end in 10 years. However, he continues to be a TV star and the Michael J. Fox Foundation has raised $290 million worldwide in an effort to find a cure for Parkinson’s disease.
Judging by his story, he’s approached his entire life and career with humour and optimism, whether being a starving actor in Hollywood negotiating his first
Family Ties contract through a payphone, or surviving the London opening of Back to the Future with the Royals in London with Princess Diana seated right beside him. Needing to pee, he didn’t have it in him to leave the theatre for fear of offending Diana.
“She looked so smoking hot,” he said.
He always returned back to his point: ‘Don’t play the result,’. Life is a spontaneous journey meant to be lived to the fullest.
Ending his lively performance with a bang, he recited a memorable New York Times article describing a woman in Mozambique who gave birth in a tree during a flood.
“When my daughters come to me with seemingly unsolvable problems, I look at them and say a lady had a baby in a tree. What do you got?”
Fox makes impact with those in crowd
Just after being diagnosed with breast cancer Arlene Marchand decided she wouldn’t let the disease prevent her from living her life on her terms.
“I decided I wasn’t going to do anything more that I didn’t want to do,” she said.
That was four years ago and now she’s cancer-free running her own jewelry business worth more than $5 million.
Marchand was among the 2,000 people who showed up to hear Fox.
She found plenty of inspiration in Fox’s moving speech, which was punctuated by his trademark humour.
“He was very determined to take what he had and turn it into something positive,” said Marchand. “Many people would see that as an issue or be broken by it.
But he hasn’t. Bad things happen but he’s proof that you can turn them into something good.”
Wednesday’s event was also punctuated by two other speakers Lavalife co-founder and current Dragon’s Den host Bruce Croxon and design superstar, TV icon and best selling author Debbie Travis.
While Croxon was a tad sobering in his advice for entrepreneurs, stressing the importance of teamwork and grueling hard work, Travis was a tad more boisterous in her delivery, championing the importance of risk taking.
“Mistakes create solutions and solutions create magic,” she said.