The sun has risen once again. Old reliable is in the sky for the trillionth time. After a bracing one-minute cold shower to wake me up, I drive to Lake Elmo State Park in Montana to run, to gallop, and to slay the two-headed dragon of fear and doubt.

I am 71 years young and was diagnosed with symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (PD) five years ago. I don’t call it Parkinson’s disease but rather name this condition Possible Parkinson’s Disease (PPD). If I don’t claim ownership of this disease, perhaps it will not own me. This illness is caused by lack of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the body, which assists in regulating bodily functions. Apparently, I’m not producing enough of this magic elixir. The resulting symptoms include tremors, stiffness, balance issues, and slowness of movement.       

I have been running for more than 50 years. I give thanks for my miraculous body, which has carried me thousands of miles past lakes, rivers, and streams, through forests and meadows, and over hills and mountains.

On this early summer day, I invite Myrtle Fillmore, the cofounder of Unity, to lace up her sneakers and be my running buddy. Although she is no longer in body, I believe she is with me in spirit. She famously healed herself from tuberculosis after doctors told her she had six months to live. She went on a journey of spiritual healing through affirmations, prayer, and lifestyle changes. She affirmed several times a day: I am a child of God, and therefore I do not inherit sickness. Today I’ll see if Myrtle and I can outrun Parkinson’s.

I stretch my legs and feel the staccato tremoring of my left hand. Today I intend to run two laps around the lake, which is about three miles. I begin my run and listen to a recording of healing affirmations inspired by Myrtle.

My body is stiff, but I know it will loosen up after the first quarter mile. As I follow the shoreline of the little lake, the glassy water reflects the trees and sky. An osprey swoops over, scanning the surface of the water for unsuspecting trout.

I don’t particularly feel like running today—sometimes it’s like that. In John 5:8 (NKJV), a lame man is lying by the Pool of Bethesda and is healed by Jesus. Jesus tells him, “Take up your bed and walk.” It is time for me to take up my bed and run.

I flash back to 1970 when I was on the high school track team in Columbus, Montana, and remember the training runs we did in the country north of town. The first part of the run took us up a steep gut-buster of a hill and continued across a plateau with glorious views of the Beartooth Mountains. The final part of the four-and-a-half-mile run was on a dirt road leading back to town. Our coach ran with us and taught us never to stop running, even when the going got tough. That attitude has carried over to this day.

I come to the quarter-mile marker on the trail and see a crayfish headed for the water. It is the only thing that is moving slower than me. 

As I run, my legs feel weak, my stride is jerky, and my balance is wobbly. Running used to be so effortless. I repeat Myrtle’s affirmation: I am a child of God, and therefore I do not inherit sickness. I recognize I have a tendency to be impatient for immediate results in my healing. I persevere, even when it’s hard, because as Myrtle taught, healing requires our participation. Myrtle took two years to heal herself, spending hours in daily meditation, faith, and affirmations. The old adage “Patience is a virtue” would be a good mindset to jog to.

I greet numerous dog walkers; a man with a Great Dane passes; a woman is throwing sticks in the lake for a copper-colored dachshund to fetch. A lady with three Scottish terriers saunters by, looking like she’s in a scene from Lady and the Tramp.

The Faith of a Mustard Seed

I jog past a cattail patch and thrill to the trill of red wing blackbirds. I reach the three-quarter-mile mark of my odyssey and glance at the opposite shore, which seems like a long way away. My mind is trying to convince me to stop, but I invoke my pact never to stop running and continue on.            

I see grebes bobbing and diving below the surface of the water. Two mallard ducks are romancing each other near the shore. I veer off the main trail and head to the sandy beach where swimmers and picnickers come on warm summer days to frolic in the water. I pick up my pace and cross the beach.

As I continue to run, I see a grouping of mustard plants growing by the shore. These little yellow flowers remind me of Matthew 17:20-21, where Jesus says, “For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.” This comforts me as I face the metaphoric mountains in front of me.

One step at a time, I keep on keeping on. I pass the one-mile marker on the last stretch of the first lap. My tank is on empty, but I imagine how good it will feel to finish the run.

I notice my legs are not moving with the smooth stride that I would like and my left arm isn’t swinging. I have to consciously make it move. I remind myself of what there is to be grateful for: things as simple as running shoes and socks, and the bigger things like my legs, my mobility, my five senses, and the abundance in my life. I could think of a thousand things to be grateful for that wouldn’t leave much time for complaint. I pass a part of the trail I’ve named Perseverance Alley and finish the first lap around the lake.

PD has many different causes, and each case is different. I was exposed to pesticides in my teens when I worked for my dad in his agricultural business. Exposure to pesticides has been linked to PD. One day I was spraying for mosquitoes when a stiff breeze came up and showered me with spray. I can still remember the pungent odor of the chemicals. I don’t know for sure if this is the cause of my condition, but it’s a possibility. I was a potter for 25 years and was exposed to clay containing manganese, which is also a factor in causing PD. It’s all a mystery.

I give a shout out to my substantia nigra, a region of the brain that produces dopamine. It is apparently falling down on the job. I come up with a little poem:

Dopamine flows

from the top of my head

to the tips of my toes!

The second lap around the lake brings new wonders to see. I run past Fox Meadow, where on a lucky day I’ll see a red fox. A little further on the trail, a king fisher chatters and patrols the shoreline. When I run past a section of the lake where geese congregate, a goose and gander followed by several goslings waddle along the shore. The gander hisses at me.

A Bottle of Whine

I know complaining about my condition is a waste of energy, but I sometimes slip into complaint mode. I could open a bottle of whine but decide to keep it in the whine cellar. I know there are many people on this planet who are facing much greater adversity than I am facing. When I find myself obsessing about my personal challenges, I pray for others. Namaste is a Sanskrit word that means, “The God in me bows to the God in you.” I silently affirm this to people I pass on my route.

I continue my jaunt. What fears and doubts am I running from? I have some fear that my condition is progressing. I replace that thought with life-promoting thoughts, words, and actions. I affirm: I’m alive, I thrive, and every cell of my body is full of vitality, health, and well-being!

I ask myself, What is the gift in this adversity? I rack my brain for an answer and send out an SOS to God: “Hello, God. Thank you for remembering me. You know what my needs are, even if I don’t! Please help me to accept and understand what is for the greatest good. Show me the pathway to healing.”   

One of my heroes was the late Roger Bannister, who in 1954 ran the first sub-four-minute mile with a time of 3:59.4. He shattered the paradigm that the four-minute mile was impossible. After he broke the record, many runners followed suit in running sub-four-minute miles. Bannister later became a neurologist and was diagnosed with PD in 2011. I wonder if the paradigm that PD is incurable can be broken. Myrtle Fillmore was a paradigm buster and provided a blueprint for healing that I can apply.

Myrtle runs with me side-by-side as I jog down the home stretch. I have earned my sweat. I have come to this lake to run, to gallop, to slay the two-headed dragon of fear and doubt. I will continue jousting with windmills on my quixotic duel.

“You are a child of God and do not inherit sickness of any shape, form, or kind,” Myrtle affirms for me before adding with a wink, “You better believe it!”

This article appeared in Unity Magazine®.

About the Author

Gus Arthur is a pen name for a freelance writer who attends Unity of Billings in Billings, Montana. He is retired from his career in social work and from 25 years as a potter. He spends time photographing nature, running in the hills, and working on various writing projects.


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