The ripple effect of a Parkinson’s diagnosis can be deeply felt by everyone in an extended family, especially the children of people with the disease. In honor of Father’s Day, The Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) hosted a conversation between three adult children — filmmaker and professor Cathy Lee Crane, son of Michael J. Fox, Sam Fox, and host of NBC’s American Ninja Warrior and MJFF Board member Akbar Gbajabiamila — to discuss how they each have navigated having a father with Parkinson’s disease (PD).
Watch the virtual roundtable as our moderator, MJFF Patient Council member Bryan Roberts, discusses parenthood with PD and the best advice our three panelists would give to families just starting their journey with the disease.
Says Akbar Gbajabiamila on accepting his father’s diagnosis as a young man:
“I was 18/19 years old when it happened. You’re old enough to feel like you’re on your own, but you’re young enough to still need your parents… My dad was like Superman to me. I think that was the hardest part, thinking that Superman could be affected by anything outside of kryptonite. I didn’t want to believe it.”
Cathy Lee Crane explained how she formed a new bond with her father after his diagnosis:
“It’s crucial to have someone in your camp who’s a really great guide in the journey. My role as his daughter was to be his external executive functioner sometimes, where I would tell him ‘slow down, take a breath…’ it’s a much more interactive disease, and I cultivated a more intimate relationship with my father as a result.”
Sam Fox talked about his family’s learnings and tips for other families navigating PD:
“My piece of advice is to be as honest and open as you can be with the people you care about… When I have a sense of where he’s [Michael J. Fox] at, I can deal with it. I know that it makes him more comfortable knowing that everyone is on the same page and knowing that we get and understand a little piece of what he’s going through because he’s willing to share that with us.”
This Father’s Day and beyond, MJFF celebrates the experiences of patients, loved ones, researchers, advocates and supporters — speeding progress toward a cure. Join our community for more updates, resources and stories.