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Michael J. Fox: The Toughest Man on TV

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The course of Parkinson's can differ wildly for every patient, and with Fox doing better than anyone would have expected, his doctors have stopped making predictions. And he swears that he doesn't worry about his future, or even think about it. "These little koans and sayings that I toss off are hard-earned bits of wisdom," he says, "and one of them is that if you imagine the worst-case scenario and it happens, you've lived with it twice. Shit's gonna happen, whether you expect or anticipate it or not. You just don't know the velocity of it. The weight of it. So there's no sense in trying to anticipate that."

Where Will Parenthood Go From Here?

He is, as it turns out, starting to experience an intense bout of symptoms right now. "This is as bad as it gets," he says, pulling his jaw tight with discomfort. His body is simultaneously tensing and shuddering, as if he's experiencing a highly localized earthquake. His right arm is a streak of constant motion. He stands up, takes another pill, and starts pacing back and forth, which helps a little. "I find if I'm moving, it just feels better," he says.

He's slightly hunched over, still pacing, and he begins to talk. "This is valuable time, too," he says. "I don't just write it off. It's like someone was telling me the other day about someone they knew with Parkinson's, and he didn't go out of the house. He said, 'I don't want anyone to see me this way,' to which I respond, 'What way? The way you are?' 'Cause it's not that bad. It's just an altered state. But I don't know what normal is anymore. I mean, my natural state is this. By the use of medication, the calm part is the contrived part."

He's taken more medicine, but if anything, his arm's movements are intensifying. Amid the motion, Fox's blue eyes have grown very still, bright and intense, and for a moment, you can see the part of him that Leary knows. It's not really a dark side – it's more like dark matter, the secret fuel at his core. "The bottom line of this whole fucking thing is that it's better," Fox says, pacing on. "My life is better than it was, because I have access to these truths and access to these moments where I give myself a break and just go, 'Fuck it.'

"What I say in my first book remains true: If I walked into a room with God or Buddha or Bill Gates or Sergey Brin or whoever could figure out a way to fix it for me, I don't think I'd do it. Because I wouldn't have gone through what I've gone through and I wouldn't have had the experience I've had, and I can still do my shit." His eyes are still blazing in that unfamiliar way, and he fixes them on me. "At the end of the day," he says, "I can still do a show. So what have I lost?"

This story is from the September 26th, 2013 issue of Rolling Stone.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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