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Dan Royer

The “Parkinson’s Writers Workshop” booklet is a compilation of personal essays written by a local group of persons with Parkinson’s disease. This booklet is the outcome of the first annual Parkinson’s Writers Workshop (meeting) that took place in March of 2024.

The idea for a Parkinson’s Writers Workshop first came to me when Kelly McWilliams, the nurse navigator in Corewell’s Parkinson’s care program, mentioned that while at a recent national conference, she heard a speaker presenting on the topic of “narrative medicine.” I studied English, language, and writing in graduate school and was a professor of writing at a university for twenty-three years. Though I had not heard of “narrative medicine,” I was well acquainted with the power of narrative in our lives as a force for changing ourselves and others. I was intrigued.

I was reminded that everyone I had ever met with Parkinson’s had a story to tell. We all share our diagnosis story and after listening to a few, I began to realize what an important landmark they are in everyone’s history with PD. Peter Dunlap-Shohl in his graphic novel, My De-generation even introduces an amusing catalog of the types of ways this tough news gets delivered to patients. As far as I can tell, this first conversation with a neurologist has something like a thirty-year half-life. While much else gets forgotten, the diagnosis story endures in our memory.

With these thoughts in mind, I put together a six-week workshop for writers and invited several folks to join me who were in my Parkinson’s orbit at the time. As things turned out, the workshop had little to do with “narrative medicine” and little intentional therapeutic aim. What it did have was a social and creative aim, an aim to tap into some creative processes that might help us to begin to write. Our endgame would be to produce a reasonably finished narrative rooted in our experience with Parkinson’s disease, our own or others.


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