Hero Worship

March 6, 2010 at 8:17 PM (Family, friends, kids, mommy guilt, Recovery) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

I got to meet Kelly Corrigan today. You know, she wrote The Middle Place. (If you haven’t read it yet, do so. Quickly – I’ll wait. Well, maybe not.) She grew up in the same place I did, and we have a mutual friend, Lisa, who was plugging Kelly’s new book on FB yesterday and hooked me up with the reading today at a local library. The moment she walked into the room, I felt like I had met her before, or knew her from somewhere. (I’m sure I wasn’t alone.)

Kelly was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004. She was  37, and her daughters were 2 and not-yet-4. (Sounds strangely familiar, right?) Anyway, I won’t spoil the story for those who haven’t read it, but I will tell you that when I read The Middle Place the first time, it certainly relieved me of the pressure of having to write my own cancer memoir. Sure, the tumors were in different parts of our bodies, we live on opposite coasts, and her tale takes a different course than mine, but aside from that she pretty much wrote down every thought that was running through my head that first summer of treatment. My knee-jerk impulse to careen home and curl up in my mom’s lap. My realization that the world was not nearly as forgiving a place as my life to that point had led me to believe. My constant search for the best words to use in mass emails to strike the balance between accuracy and upbeat optimism, so as not to get anyone down (and ensure plenty of replies). My awe at the way my husband stepped up to the plate to maintain some semblance of order over chaos. My fear of how every moment of my illness was affecting my kids.

Kelly read from The Middle Place and her new book, Lift, a small but laser-sharp review of her daughters’ little-girl years, which she wrote so they would remember more than Kelly had of her own early youth. She explores so many of the hidden joys and pains of parenthood, and made me want to write down more of my own boys’ moments, knowing my own terrible memory and feeling the need to share their trials and triumphs with them when they’re older.

Quick-witted and smart, the more Kelly spoke, the more I understood why her books and her essays are so well received. She said herself that she “walks a fine line” of not-having-really-bad-stuff-happen-to-her (no plane crashes, alcoholism, crushing poverty) but still speaking to everyone in common sentiments. Her humorous take keeps the mood light enough that you want to read more, but the love that is so evident in all of her stories, whether about her own daughters or just dear friends, carried all of us in the room right into her lap.

So of course I had to say hello, and our mutual friend had given me a name to drop. I told her how she had written the book that I was going to write, and she laughed graciously. I’m sure I gibbered on, unable to get across how truly aligned I had felt with her own reactions, making my career as a wordsmith seem a bit misguided. I only hope that I didn’t embarrass Lisa too much.

Maybe when I get to meet Jude Law some day I won’t sound like quite so much of a starstruck schoolgirl. Then again, he hasn’t read my mind. Yet.

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7 Comments

  1. Ann said,

    I read her book. I liked it very much; she’s an excellent writer. I couldn’t relate very much (except to the cancer part), as our family lives were vastly different. The last thing I’d want to do is curl up in my mother’s lap after a diagnosis like this. I laugh even thinking of it, but then, the big “A” did touch my life. However, her book gave me a nice glimpse into the way a “normal” family might react to this, and that was pretty interesting.

    I’ll check out her new book, I didn’t know she had one. I can probably relate to her motherhood experience a lot more than her cancer experience, even though we have the same cancer.

  2. Kelly Corrigan said,

    Hey

    It was really great to meet you. I thought about you today, before I saw this (Turk sent the link to me). Write. That’s what I want to say. Write.

    Happy Oscar watching.

    k

  3. Kristen Brooks said,

    I read the book while my dad battled stage 4 cancer. He survived but I felt liek I was in the middle place – caring for my kids and my parents. I do not have CA so I can not relate to that element. But so much more I can….Hope you are well Sarah !

  4. Ruthann said,

    this is awesome Sarah! I did read the book and loved Kelly’s ease and candor telling her story….I am looking forward to reading her next book too…keep telling your story the way you do…it is so real. all the best–Ruthann

  5. mom said,

    I do hope that “terrible memory” bit referred to your faulty recall, and not your devastating experiences as a child! Or is there something you haven’t told me…?

  6. livingbeyondbc said,

    We love Kelly’s stuff! She’s so honest and candid :)

  7. Linda said,

    Hi Sarah
    You are so inspiring! I agree with Kelly’s advice: WRITE! Please share your story. My blog will be up soon, and it’s all about ovarian cancer stories.
    I hope you’ll be there…

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