Open letter to North End Fitness

“Although I owned a boat, I had no sonar, metal detector or any practical method of surveying the ocean bottom. With an incurable illness, no prospect of financial reward, little chance of success, brain surgery looming, and one child in college with another about to start, I was not in a position to spend thousands of dollars on a search. Still, desperate for a distraction, anything to pry my focus away from the disease, I decided—the hell with Parkinson’s. I’m doing it.” – From the “The Lost Intruder, The Search for a Missing Navy Jet.”

That was me in 2014, nine years after being diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s disease at age 43. I went on to find the missing A-6 Intruder—a jet I had flown from the aircraft carrier USS Ranger—a feat of perseverance that four U.S. Navy ships had been unable to accomplish in 1989.

Since then, I’ve undergone Deep Brain Stimulation surgery, setting the clock back several years and increasing my physical capability. Parkinson’s still makes most things difficult, however. Even walking with a decent posture and rhythm requires continuous concentration and focus. Constant joint pain, insomnia, a lack of dexterity, and depression are a few of the daily companions that challenge my imagination with ways to stay positive and active. For a Parkinson’s patient to give in to fatigue and stop exercising can lead to a slow death.

That’s where North End Fitness comes in. I am the token “Y” (chromosome)—the only regularly attending guy—in Yvette’s Interval Training class, and yes, I catch some good-natured grief for that fact. Interval training builds strength while testing balance and cardiovascular endurance. Yvette works us hard as she motivates the class, making it fun, the key ingredients to maintaining a regular exercise regimen.

Every time I go to Interval, the sense of achievement allows for a small victory that helps me step up to life’s daily challenges. Some days are harder than others, but Interval, like the many other excellent classes offered by the great instructors at North End Fitness, motivates and inspires beyond the doors of the gym. It sets my attitude for the day, keeping me plugging away when the alternative can be devastating.

Parkinson’s has no cure, but if you think about it, neither does life. Staying active and being around positive, engaged people goes a tremendous way in making each day just a little bit easier and a whole lot more fun. Thank you, Yvette and all the staff at North End Fitness! – Peter Hunt

Smashwords interview of Peter Hunt

What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
The prospect of touching a single individual and making a positive difference in his or her understanding of life, especially if they have Parkinson’s disease. I strive to be the best listener possible. This often means traveling with another down their personal path of self-discovery, an always fascinating and sometimes enlightening invitation to view another’s soul. If this sounds like a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, please remember that I used to be a Navy carrier combat aviator and commercial airline pilot, as well as a former deep-water shipwreck diver; in other words, one accustomed to life’s harsh perceived realities. But there is so much more out there. By inviting a reader into my story, I might be able to offer a glimpse of possibility and hope for those with incurable disease.

What do you read for pleasure?
Until relatively recently, I read nothing but books on history, politics, and biography/autobiography. Now I look for books that tease the imagination and stir the soul, stories and nonfiction which inspire both deep thought and an unconscious connection of commonality, kindred tales of our society’s generational myths. For me, it is all about trying to understand the experiences of others, be they real or fiction, not to find fixes or cures. There is no cure for life. All we can hope to do, I believe, is to ease another’s path towards a settled, inner peace.

Describe your desk
Moderate clutter with a large, printed sign at the top of the window that says, “Boldly going nowhere.”

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
Six years of my childhood in the 1970s was spent in Athens, Greece. These were the magical years of spiritual alchemy before I was poisoned by the societal sanctions of adulthood. Anything was possible, and time was immaterial. There was no TV, just ancient ruins along every roadside, spilling over with stories to tell, sparking imaginative travel far beyond the realm of our family VW bus. I miss those days, back before life was overthought. In my opinion, modern society needs to feel a whole lot more, and think a whole lot less.

When did you first start writing?
When I was 38, five years before my Young Onset Parkinson’s diagnosis. In retrospect, I probably had the disease back then, though. Parkinson’s has changed my life for the better in so many ways. Without having contracted the disease (what an odd word, “contracted,” used in this manner), I would likely have gone through a life unexamined, unfulfilled, and never at peace or happy. I see writing, Parkinson’s, and who I am today on the deepest level as so intricately connected as to be unfathomable.

What’s the story behind your latest book?
“The Lost Intruder, The Search for a Missing Navy Jet,” is on the surface about my discovery of a Navy A-6 Intruder that crashed off the shores of Whidbey Island in 1989. The jet was from my squadron; I had flown that specific jet both from the aircraft carrier USS Ranger and ashore from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. But that merely provides structure for the book. The underlying story relates my battle with Parkinson’s disease during the project, and how it transformed me into a more caring and happy person. It is a soulful revel in life’s mysteries, as well as an informative look at Naval Aviation, technical wreck diving, underwater sleuthing, and Deep Brain Stimulation surgery, among other things. Oh yeah, and a page-turning adventure; don’t want to forget about that!

What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Hearing from readers who connect with my experiences and have somehow benefited from them. Four years of research, searching, and writing balances nicely with deeply relating to another human being.

When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
Yoga, exercising, occasionally Scuba diving, some volunteering, and enjoying nature. Thinking a lot followed by doing my best not to think at all.
Published 2018-03-03.