Saturday, October 3, 2009

Michael J. Fox Soldiers On Despite Parkinson's

The Twins defeated the Royals 5-4 in an exciting penultimate regular season game at the Metrodome. In the post-game interview with Michael Cuddyer, who hit the game-winning homerun, the final question from the television broadcaster was about the quality time Cuddyer had spent before the game with a young boy suffering from an incurable disease, a visit made possible through the nonprofit organization Make a Wish.

The Make a Wish question changed the tone completely, from reveling in ephemeral sports victory to the hard reality of a child dying young. It immediately affected even my perception of the figure of Cuddyer on the screen. Suddenly I saw the shadows underneath his baseball cap, as it shielded his face from the glare of the Dome lights. Rembrandt lighting, I thought . . . . maybe even Caravaggio.

Then we went to commercial. But instead of some silly screed for Geico or The Colonel’s Grilled Kitchen, it was Michael J. Fox, earnestly urging donations to his Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. The Rembrandt lighting took on an even more serious tone, and the Caravaggio shadows got even deeper and more complex.

For many years, Michael J. Fox has been one of the most well known people in America living with Parkinson’s. When my dad was diagnosed in 2003, Fox, Pope John Paul II, and Muhammed Ali were among the highest profile people suffering from the disease. John Paul died in 2005, and my dad in 2007 − partly from complications of Parkinson’s.

Michael J. Fox soldiers on, patiently and passionately making the case for more research into the causes and possible cures for Parkinson’s, a nasty, progressive brain disease that insidiously robs people of much of their capacity to perform even the most basic tasks.

The Twins won the game, pulling within ½ game of the Tigers on the next-to-last day of the season. The true hero of the day, however, was Fox, still hanging in there, after losing so much to Parkinson’s, still trying to raise the money to fund the research to find a cure.

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