In the flurry of late October festivities, you may have missed Michael J. Fox's appearance on "CBS Sunday Morning" with Jane Pauley. The special interview took place nearly twenty years to the day since Michael publicly disclosed he has Parkinson's disease (PD).
The segment begins with Michael's retelling of his journey from diagnosis and his attempt to conceal his symptoms on screen in Spin City. Beginning with a clip of his 1998 testimony before Congress, Michael talks about what motivated him to start The Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) in 2000, and how it has grown to where we are today, "closing in on a billion" dollars of Parkinson's research funded.
Michael and Jane are then joined by a panel of eight people living with PD. The group represents the variability of the disease -- some experience similar symptoms, some were diagnosed in their sixties, while others, like Michael, have been living with the disease since their late twenties.
What unites the group is their dedication to speeding better treatments and a cure by participating in research. Claudia Revilla, one of the panelists and a member of the Foundation's Patient Council, refers to Fox Insight, MJFF's online clinical study that partners patients with researchers in the quest for a cure:
We need to provide all the information we can. You tell them [via survey] when your Parkinson's started, what was your first symptom, what types of symptoms you get, what medications you take. And the more information they get, the faster they'll get to a cure.
While increased patient participation in research is helping advance Parkinson's breakthroughs, the road to a cure is undoubtedly long and unpredictable. "I'm expecting vastly improved therapies and I'll take that in the short term," says Michael. "The idea of finding the eureka! moment and the thing that cures [Parkinson's] as we understand cures, I don't know that that will happen in the next 20 years, but I do think we'll have therapies to vastly improve quality of life for people with Parkinson's."
When asked about the individual role he has played in raising awareness of Parkinson's disease and helping to direct high-impact research toward a cure, Michael instead describes feeling rewarded to be part of a larger community working toward a collective goal. He says, "I feel a part of something. Not necessarily leading it. Not necessarily the reason that it's all going to happen. But I feel a part of something that's much more special."
Stay tuned for a blog featuring the "CBS Sunday Morning" panelists who will share their personal experiences living with Parkinson's.