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What someone with Parkinson’s disease thinks of new Michael J. Fox show

The Michael J. Fox Show - Seas1

The Michael J. Fox Show - Season 1

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Updated: April 14, 2014 4:49PM

Last week I was sitting in a restaurant with my daughter. My left hand was shaking, but I hadn’t knocked anything off the table yet, so I didn’t think it was obvious. Still, two women came over and asked, “Did you see the new Michael J. Fox show? What did you think?”

“Wow,” I thought. “People know what Parkinson’s disease looks like now. They don’t think I’m on meth.”

I’d never been a fan of Fox — I disliked “Family Ties.” But I’ve thought about him more sympathetically in the last few years, because like him, I got Parkinson’s young. Only 10 to 20 percent of the 1.5 million Americans with Parkinson’s are under 50, and it’s not a club you want to join. I had to leave my job as a teacher, because there are so many things I can’t do. Like get up on time — because I can’t always sleep at night. Or walk reliably. Or deal well with crowds. It’s frustrating, because your mind’s the same, but your body’s doing the hokey pokey. It feels like a betrayal.

On the show, which airs its fourth episode on NBC tonight, Fox plays a TV newsman who left his job because of PD — his tremors made his chair slide off-camera. But he decides to come back — with wheel locks on the chair — like Fox came back to television. I admire what he’s doing — saying nuts to his illness and doing what he loves. Not everyone can. Linda Ronstadt would sing again if she could.

I’m not sure yet what I think of the show — in many ways it seems like a regular sitcom — wacky friends, mischievous kid, cute wife, etc. Parkinson’s doesn’t play much of a role — it’s just there. Sometimes I wish it would talk more about the experience of Parkinson’s for a regular person. Fox’s character gets asked for autographs. I’d like to see him at a grocery store, getting picked on because he’s shaking. But I have hopes for the show. Maybe Parkinson’s awareness will get trendy — like Cuban music a few years ago — and people will be more understanding about it. And maybe the increased understanding will build more momentum for a cure.

Jim O’Malley, an Avondale resident, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2011 .

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