Michael J. Fox
In his long struggle with Parkinson's disease, Michael J. Fox has never given in to the darkness of the disease--the trembling limbs, the frozen muscles, the vertigo that threatened to end his acting career. Instead, he has made misfortune his ally, using it to rally people against the degenerative brain disease.
Fox is nominated as one of Beliefnet's Most Inspiring People of the Year for his unwavering optimism, even in the face of debilitating illness and the uncertainty of a cure.
"I often say now I don't have any choice whether or not I have Parkinson's," Fox, 48, told Beliefnet earlier this year. "But surrounding that non-choice is a million other choices that I can make . . . These are new choices and they lead to amazing places." Among those places is the forefront of the battle against Parkinson's through his Michael J. Fox Foundation, which is in pursuit of a cure. To date, it has raised more than $154 million dollars for research. He has also been a vocal advocate for stem cell research because of its potential to help those with Parkinson's and many other illnesses.
Fox is also the best-selling author of "Lucky Man" (2002) and "Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist" (2009). The titles of his books reflect his conviction that every setback is a chance to rise up even stronger. When Rush Limbaugh accused him of exaggerating his Parkinson's-induced tremors for political attention, Fox termed the criticism a "great favor" for bringing attention to the disease.
"I see possibilities in everything," he told Beliefnet. "For everything that's taken away, something of greater value has been given. As big as my problems are, as big as Parkinson's is, for example, it can't take up that much space in a world that has so much capacity for good stuff. It just doesn't. I just don't let it take up that much room."