The Middle Place

Excerpt from The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan

I recently came across this video by Kelly Corrigan, who was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer in August 2004, just days before her oldest daughter turned three.

Her family was surrounded with support and kindness for months, carrying her through eight cycles of chemotherapy, a lumpectomy and two months of radiation. The meaningful and creative ways her friends found to support her was the inspiration for this site.

In this video Kelly reads a wonderful piece about friendship, and how we women can        all support each other through thick and thin. You don’t have to have had experience of cancer to appreciate this video. I  pass it on in celebration of all women and friendship.  
It was a total shock to the system when: At thirty-six, Kelly Corrigan had a marriage        that worked, two kids and a weekly newspaper column.  Yet Kelly still saw herself as the daughter of garrulous charmer George Corrigan.   She was living in the Middle Place – comfortably wedged between her adult duties and her parents’ care. But Kelly is shoved into coming-of-age when she finds a lump in her breast – and gets the diagnosis no one wants to hear.  When George, too, learns he has late-stage cancer,  it was Kelly’s turn to look after the man who’d always taken care of her – and to take the leap and grow up.    Image result for the middle place kelly corrigan
  In her bestselling memoir, The Middle Place, Ms. Corrigan alternates chapters between that difficult year and flashbacks to her childhood, partially for much-needed comic relief and partially to make the point that “you don’t really grow up until you learn to live in the world without the people who made it a safe place for you.”
Her second memoir, LIFT,  tells three stories of risk and parenthood, including her daughter’s bout of meningitis.  Kelly has become an expert in crisis and caretaking.           Ms. Corrigan’s writing is lauded by the Today Show, Good Housekeeping magazine         and millions of readers.
Kelly Corrigan’s first book, “The Middle Place,” is a memoir about her Irish-American father’s battle with cancer and her own triumph over the disease. It was published on January 8, 2008 (hardcover) and December 23, 2008 (paperback).
At its peak, the hardcover reached #2 on the Non-fiction New York Times bestseller list. The paperback has reached #2  on  the  Trade Paperback Non-fiction New York Times bestseller list to date. “The Middle Place” was also recognized by Barnes and Noble as          part of the “Discover Great New Writers” campaign.

Shortly after her own battle with breast cancer, Corrigan launched Circus of Cancer, a how-to web site for friends and family of women with the disease. The website includes      a photo album of her own struggle against breast cancer and writings in such categories    as  “Finding a Lump”  and  “Losing My Hair.”   Below is an excerpt from  “Getting the Diagnosis”:

At 1pm, Emily Birenbaum called and said these exact words: “Kelly,  I understand that you called in this morning.  I have the biopsy report and Kelly, it’s cancer.” I called out, “Edward!” and he  came  to  me  and  we  crowded  around  the  phone,  politely asking the simplest of  questions.

“Is  the  test  always  correct?” “Does  it  say  how  much  cancer  there  is?”  “Could it be a false positive?”     After a very short conversation where we learned the phrase ‘invasive ductal carcinoma’, we hung up. The girls were at our knees, needing to be  fed and put down  for a nap. There was so much to do, on so many fronts, that the only thing to do was to start doing.

Corrigan created the annual benefit concert Notes and Words in 2010, and has since raised over $5 million for Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute in Oakland, California. An annual event, Notes & Words features bestselling authors and recording artists onstage together at the Fox Theatre in Oakland. The event in 2014 raised over $728,000 and had an attendance of 1900 people. The co-chairs of the philanthropy – Corrigan, Melissa Williams and Kristina Smith – are all grateful parents whose children have received services and care from Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland.
The Huffington Post calls Corrigan the “Poet Laureate of the Ordinary” while O Magazine says Corrigan is “the voice of a generation.” Her books The Middle Place and LIFT, reached #2 on the New York Times bestseller list and Corrigan’s reading of her essay on the value of friendship was viewed over 5 million times on YouTube.
Ms. Corrigan co-founded the Notes and Words benefit for Childrens’ Hospital and Research Center Oakland. Her new book, a memoir about her mother called Glitter            and Glue, will be published in February, 2014.

  Bestselling author of The Middle Place and Glitter and Glue, Kelly Corrigan shares  her thoughts on motherhoood and the great adventure.  Glitter and Glue is a new memoir that examines the bond — sometimes nourishing,  sometimes exasperating,  occasionally divine—between mothers and daughters.

When Kelly Corrigan was in high school, her mother neatly summarized the family dynamic as “Your father’s the glitter but I’m the glue.” This meant nothing to Kelly,       who left childhood sure that her mom — with her inviolable commandments and proud stoicism — would  be  nothing more than background chatter  for  the rest of Kelly’s life,  which she was carefully orienting toward adventure.

After college, armed with a backpack, her personal mission statement, and a wad of traveler’s checks,  she took off for Australia to see things and do things and Become Interesting. But it didn’t turn out the way she pictured it. In a matter of months, her savings shot, she had a choice: get a job or go home.

That’s how Kelly met John Tanner, a newly widowed father of two looking for a live-in nanny. They chatted for an hour, discussed timing and pay, and a week later, Kelly moved in. And there, in that house in a suburb north of Sydney, 10,000 miles from the house where she was raised, her mother’s voice was suddenly everywhere, nudging and advising, cautioning and directing,   while escorting her through a terrain as foreign as any she had ever trekked. Every day she spent with the Tanner kids was a day spent reconsidering her relationship with her mother,  turning it over in her hands like a shell,  straining to hear whatever messages might be trapped in its spiral.

This is a book about the difference between travel and life experience, stepping out and stepping up, fathers and mothers. However, mostly it’s about who you admire and why, and how that changes over time.

In her TEDxTalk, Kelly explores the value of reading, and why we should do more of it.    In her down-to-earth, humorous style, she shows us how reading is the foundation upon which we build our vocabulary,  which is surprisingly core to who we are,  both professionally and personally. 

Kelly argues that expanding our working vocabulary through reading leads to occupational success, intellectual development and personal connection.   Her hope is that individuals, couples, families, workforces, electorates and communities will read at least 30 minutes a day, exposing us to two million words used in context per year, words that will exponentially impact how we think and connect.

 Everyone loves a good story, and that is why we are often tempted to project simplified narratives onto our own complex lives. In this talk, Kelly Corrigan, author of Glitter and Glue, explores the liberating power of acceptance – the act of embracing life in its full complexity.
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