How do you keep your optimism in the face of difficult circumstances? Leah Min, MONTREAL
I think mostly it's about acceptance. I have no choice about whether or not I have Parkinson's. I have nothing but choices about how I react to it. In those choices, there's freedom to do a lot of things in areas that I wouldn't have otherwise found myself in.
How has your diagnosis affected your beliefs about life, death or spirituality? David O'Malley HINGHAM, MASS.
It's a big wake-up call about mortality, obviously. I think that's a good thing for us to get out of the way--the earliest you can responsibly deal with the fact that this isn't a dress rehearsal. It's like a 75-, 80-year ride if we're lucky, so let's make the most of it.
How do you think your advocacy has helped change the public view of stem-cell research? Angel Paternina CARTAGENA, COLOMBIA
I was happy that I could in some ways instigate the conversation. People who may not have considered the issue before considered it. But I think it was a train that was rolling along on its own. It didn't need a lot of help from me.
What do you think is the best argument going forward to support stem-cell research? Brad Kohn Jr. ISSAQUAH, WASH.
If something has that much promise, there's no good argument to walk away from it. We need to find a way to do the work.
Have you ever felt cheated by having Parkinson's disease? Mark Moyer NORTHAMPTON, PA.
No, absolutely not. It's been a detour that I wouldn't have planned, but it's really led me to amazing places. I mean, I enjoy my work as an actor. But to make a difference in people's lives through advocacy and through supporting research--that's the kind of privilege that few people will get, and it's certainly bigger than being on TV every Thursday for half an hour.
Have you ever found yourself embarrassed by your disease? Maillen Van Dyke BOULDER, COLO.
Yes, early on, certainly. Now I feel and I say all the time that vanity is, like, long gone. I'm really free of worrying about what I look like, because it's out of my shaky hands. I don't control it. So why would I waste one second of my life worrying about it?
What made you an American icon despite a body of work smaller than that of actors who have been working for 40 years? John Houle, ST. CLOUD, MINN.
It's like they say: Comedy is like a frog--you can dissect it, you learn how it works, but it will die in the process. So I never spend a lot of time analyzing why people respond to my work. But I think that it's just the joy, a passion for life, that I think has always been in my characters. Beyond that, I'm just grateful for it.
Do you still act, or do you think your time is best spent finding a cure for Parkinson's? Erik Guetzlaff CEDAR FALLS, IOWA
I act every now and then. I just did Rescue Me with Denis Leary, who's a good friend. It was a really insane job for me to take, but I play a paraplegic, bitter ex-athlete. It was really challenging trying to will myself to be still for any amount of time. But it was a lot of fun.
Do you believe that research will find a cure for Parkinson's during your lifetime? Natasha Masub, ROSLYN, N.Y.