What I Wish I'd Known About Family Dynamics and Parental Caregiving: Author Kelly Corrigan

The author of The Middle Place describes the pitfalls of insisting she knew best how to manage her father's cancer treatment.

Kelly Corrigan was 36 years old and halfway through chemotherapy for breast cancer when she learned that her father had bladder cancer. As she recounts in her memoir The Middle Place, a New York Times bestseller, she immediately decided to lead the plan of attack for George Corrigan's cancer -- after all, who in the family knew better about how to fight cancer than she?

"I had just finished my seventh round of chemo, and the chemo was working," she says. "I had a lot of conviction around the idea that medicine will save you and that in order to get the right medicine, you had to get the right doctor."

But she discovered that not everyone in the family appreciated her long-distance take-charge approach. "You're too intense," one brother told her when she rode her mother and brothers by phone about getting the best care. Even her father found her email to his doctors out of line.

Corrigan says she remembers thinking, "How can I trust my parents with my father's life? But it was my father's life and my mother's husband's life and my brothers' father's life." In the end, she discovered, all of their approaches were useful.

"There's no sense in wasting a whole bunch of energy getting frustrated or angry at everybody in your family for responding as they're responding," she says. "read lightly, take a deep breath, and talk to people first -- have some consideration for the other people to whom this is happening.”

Read the full interview with Kelly Corrigan.

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