Tracy: I feel more at peace. There are days when I don't feel that way, but for the most part I trust that what's supposed to happen will. Worrying won't prevent the worst outcome. I've learned to live in the moment, which is not my natural tendency. I've always thought that if I worried about something enough, it wouldn't happen. I forgot to worry about Parkinson's.
Michael: People are often surprised to hear that Parkinson's doesn't come up that much in our house—it's not the major focus every day. Sometimes I'll joke with Tracy, "Honey, I got that Parkinson's, you know? That whole degenerative brain disease!"
Oprah: But it doesn't affect your thinking, does it?
Michael: Not at all.
Oprah: Do you think a cure will be discovered in your lifetime?
Michael: Absolutely. There will be a cure.
Oprah: So you're not interested in better drugs, just a cure, right?
Michael: Better drugs are great. I'd love to see people's quality of life improve. But we now know how Parkinson's is created—there are even chemicals that can cause a Parkinsonian reaction. And now there's all this work with cells and DNA. We're trying to bring the tipping point closer and closer. A cure is inevitable—we just have to light a fire under everyone to make it happen soon. When I hired the person who runs our foundation, the first thing I told her was "If we have a tenth anniversary, you're fired."
Oprah: Has your involvement with the foundation turned up the volume in your life?
Michael: I'm pumped!
Oprah: I know you left Spin City so you could do more work with the foundation. Why did you decide to take a role on the show in the first place?
Michael: After we had the twins, I went to New Zealand to make a movie while Tracy stayed here with the girls. Being separated felt like a step backward. I thought, "I'd love to go back to TV and get a job with regular hours so I can be with Tracy and the kids." Then everything just fell together.
Oprah: Lucky man!
Michael: It was fantastic—but there came a time when it was too difficult to do the show, especially without anyone knowing my secret. There were a few people who knew I had Parkinson's, and I put them in a position of having to always cover up for me when I couldn't be somewhere on time. I thought, "This is stupid. Why am I not telling people?" The reason I wasn't telling was that I wondered if people would still laugh if they knew I was sick. Can you laugh at a sick person and not feel like an asshole? I finally thought, "Let me not worry about that. What other people think is none of my business. I just have to have faith in the audience. If it's funny, they'll laugh." Sure enough, everyone was great, and I did the job for another year and a half. But at some point I realized there was a lot of work to be done to raise awareness about Parkinson's. I thought, "If the meter is running in terms of my effectiveness, it may be better to apply my energy here."
We Hear You!