The Positive Trade-Off
Janice Rowan gave up her love of teaching preschool children due to the progression of Parkinson’s disease. She turned retirement from her 26-year passion to what she calls the positive trade-off—when one is prepared to work with and not against PD.
In 2009, she noticed her handwriting getting smaller, and she took longer to complete daily reports. Her right hand had a slight tremor. These symptoms led her to a neurologist and a Parkinson’s diagnosis. She continued to teach six more years before retiring in 2015 at age 62.
Janice needed to write children’s stories to fill the void and to heal the loss from giving up her beloved career prematurely. She found encouragement when she needed it the most. Ironically, her cheerleaders were living under her roof. Her two grandchildren, Victoria and Lucas, inspired her as she cared for them while their mum completed university studies. One of her first projects My Nana is a Mover and a Shaker was designed to explain Parkinson’s in a storytelling format to young children. It was released in an App Parkinson’s Xplained by Medicine X in Australia in 2016.
A Poet with Parkinson’s
Another front burner project after retiring was writing several children’s books in rhyming text aimed at 3 to 7-year-olds. The project was shelved for lack of a publisher, and Janice turned to writing poetry.
She believes that after she worked through the initial shock of getting PD, her creative drive was activated. Although she had created rhymes for the preschool children, it was not until her diagnosis that she discovered a need to write poetry. It was a coping therapy to deal with the diagnosis. “I had a new lease on life and creative purpose,” she says. “My first poems such as A Time to Grieve were raw with emotion. I was experiencing a lot of pain and trying to regain my composure and positive slant on life.”
First Shared PD Poem
As Janice decided how and when to reveal her secret, the outcome turned out to be one of her most amazing moments as a writer. “It felt like a great weight had been lifted from my shoulders,” she recalls. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.” She wrote her first poem about Parkinson’s with optimism and hope for the future and bravely posted it to a Facebook poetry group. All it took was one person hitting “like” for Parkinson’s Disease and Me giving her confidence to share future poems with others.
Her poems continued to reflect good thoughts such as The Positive Aspect of Parkinson’s Disease. Other poems used the healing effect of humor as in Mr. Parkie. The My Parkinson’s Road Blockers addressed PD coping strategies such as gratitude.
Janice prefers to write in simple rhyme that is expressive and descriptive of her personal Parkinson’s journey. She usually adds a visual image reflective of the essence of the poem. Her hope is that by sharing her experiences and emotions, she will help someone else. You will often find her in this sunshine filled room in North Manly, Australia, working from her iPad. Her poetry is spontaneous as she catches a thought, experience, or milestone to capture. She grew up near Sydney and was the second eldest child of a family of eight children. With her husband, Peter of 44 years, their two daughters living away from home, and their son’s family living with them, Janice has many moments of grace to inspire her work.
As Janice evolved as a poet, she discovered inspiration from other creative Parkinson’s people she met online. David Morse, a gifted photographer, encouraged her to keep writing poetry by placing some of her work on his sunrise images. This experience prompted Janice to explore the healing benefits of nature.
Next, David suggested she write quotes about life such as friendship, joy, and kindness. Her Live Life Quotes have been placed on numerous photographs including those of her childhood friend, Karen Naughton.
A Project Revisited
Some projects are not meant to stay on a shelf. According to William Faulkner, “If a story is in you, it is meant to come out.” In 2018, Karen helped to bring about the publication of the line of children’s books that Janice had written right after retirement. “Seeing my first children’s book published in print is one of my most amazing moments as a writer. This was an ongoing dream I had for a long time. It was on my bucket list,” says Janice. Her Understanding Parkinson’s books can be viewed on Blurb. Thousands of people will see them at the World Parkinson Congress in Kyoto in 2019, as the books were selected to be in the Book Nook!
Janice’s PD Blessing
Janice is busy with new projects. A friend is illustrating a children’s book about a koala which she plans to self-publish. Two other books on fairy gardens and on a child overcoming fear are being edited. She is thinking about publishing a small book of poems. Her creative works including the past, the present, and the future provide temporary respite from Parkinson’s symptoms. The dichotomy is Janice does not believe she would be doing stories, poems, and quotes today if Parkinson’s had not come calling. “PD makes me more determined and motivated to create a sense of positive purpose with my artistic endeavors and to share these with others,” she states.
Her last stanza of A Burst of Creativity beautifully expresses the need to create.
Ones’s creative journey develops courage to take risks and to overcome fear
By exploring new ways to develop self expression in all that the heart holds dear
So the act of doing what one totally loves and is passionate about during day or night
Offers respite from Parkinson’s to improve quality of life as the creative spirit takes flight!
The blessing for Janice is a never ending circle of motivation followed by feel good therapy fueled by her creative achievements. She exemplifies how it is possible to feel more in control of Parkinson’s and to live life with purpose.
If you would like to read more of Janice’s poetry, you can find new poems in Facebook groups such as Shaky Poet, Parkinson’s Writers Group and Art and Such by PWPS. Older poems can be found on Parkinson’s Poems and Other Writings. Visit Blurb to see her line of children’s books or better yet come to Kyoto and see them firsthand. You may even meet Janice!
Question: Of the creative works featured in Janice Rowan’s profile, which one is your favorite and why?