Author and cancer survivor urges patients to accept support

Kelly Corrigan, right, talks with a cancer awareness symposium attendee

Kelly Corrigan, right, talks with a cancer awareness symposium attendee

TROY—Those experiencing the multitude of emotions that can accompany cancer diagnosis and treatment may benefit themselves and those around them by accepting well intentioned support, a cancer survivor and author said during the annual Bill and Ruth McGraw Cancer Awareness Symposium.

Kelly Corrigan, a breast cancer survivor and New York Times best-selling author of four books including “The Middle Place,” detailed her cancer journey and lessons learned along the way during the 19th symposium Aug. 26 at the Crystal Room in Troy.

She was a mother of two young girls when she felt something “rocky” on her breast one day while taking a bath and shampooing her hair. The discovery led her immediately to the home of a friend and OB/GYN, who told her she needed to see a doctor the next day.

Corrigan listened and was told following testing that images showed what looked like “an explosion” of cancer.

As she underwent treatment and tried to tend to her young family, Corrigan said she became the focus of attention in her neighborhood and circle of friends.

Although accepting help for most people is uncomfortable, she said she found the gestures of kindness were important not only to her.

“More than you need help, people need to help you,” Corrigan said. “You have brought mortality into the room.”

She encouraged those who someday might be in those shoes to allow people to do even the smallest of things such a giving them letters to mail or allowing them to knit a hat.

“You cannot steal that feeling of helping from people,” Corrigan said.

During her battle, she learned that her beloved father had been diagnosed with late stage cancer and worked to ensure he received proper care.

After writing journals—lots of journals—starting in the seventh grade, Corrigan branched out into books, is a contributor to several magazines, provides YouTube video columns on an array of life topics, and has appeared on the “Today” show.

The annual cancer symposium, hosted by the UVMC Foundation and the UVMC Cancer Care Center, is named in memory of Bill and Ruth McGraw, parents of Bill McGraw, III, and his sisters, Karen McGraw and Chris Grilliot. Between them, Bill and Ruth McGraw had cancer five times, but neither died from the disease.

The program was presented by the UVMC Foundation and made possible by a gift from the McGraw Family Fund of The Troy Foundation as well as sponsors Unity National Bank, Ernst Concrete, and F & P America.

To learn about cancer care treatment available locally, call 937-440-4820 or log on to

Kelly Corrigan, right, talks with a cancer awareness symposium attendee Corrigan, right, talks with a cancer awareness symposium attendee