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Me and the Girls: Mary Manasco

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WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Picture of Mary Manasco   WebMD senior writer Miranda Hitti interviewed breast cancer survivors as part of a series for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The series, called "Me & the Girls," explores the personal stories of nine women who faced breast cancer.

Breast cancer survivor Mary Manasco, 59, lives in Jackson, Miss. In May 2008, a routine mammogram showed a suspicious spot in Manasco's right breast, which led to another mammogram, a biopsy, and a diagnosis of stage 1 breast cancer.

Breast Cancer: Me & the Girls

When breast cancer hits home, it's personal. WebMD shares stories and advice from women who know what breast cancer is like firsthand.

  • Zunilda Guzman, 39, had both breasts and ovaries removed after learning she had breast cancer and a high-risk gene.
  • Pamela Cerceo, 51, had both breasts removed even though she didn’t have breast cancer.
  • Diane Morgan, 71, offers advice on what friends should and shouldn't do when someone has breast cancer.
  • Jenee Bobbora, 39, chose not to have breast reconstruction after her mastectomy.
  • Tammy Joyner, 49, talks about telling her sons she had breast cancer.

Read more stories: 

 

The diagnosis upset her, of course. "When you hear the word 'cancer,' you pretty much freak out," Manasco says.

But she took comfort in the fact that her cancer was small and that she and her doctors at the University of Mississippi Medical Center had a plan -- do a lumpectomy (surgery to remove her tumor, but not her whole breast), followed by radiation therapy and treatment with the drug Femara.

"I knew there was a chance of recurrence. I'm not that naïve. But it's like, OK, that will take care of it," Manasco said.

But in May 2009, a routine mammogram showed something that turned out to be another cancer in the same breast.

"Even though I'd had radiation, even though I was on Femara, it still showed up," Manasco says.

This time, it was an "in situ" cancer, not the invasive cancer she'd had before. "In situ" means the cancer hasn't moved beyond the spot where it started; "invasive" cancer means it has spread beyond its tiny starting point, even if it's only gone a short distance, not throughout the body.

A mastectomy -- surgical removal of that breast -- was recommended. Manasco and her doctors agreed to also remove her other breast, which hadn't shown signs of cancer.

Getting diagnosed again was "so much more emotional" than the first time, Manasco says. "I could only tell one person a day, because I would just cry."

But she was crystal clear on her decision to have both breasts removed. "I simply want to get rid of it and hopefully really move on with the rest of my life," she says.

Manasco had no family history of breast cancer, but her mother had died of liver cancer at age 51.

Treatment and recovery: Manasco says recovering from her lumpectomy "was not a big deal," and she could drive two days after the surgery.

She had her double mastectomy in July 2009, and says there is still some swelling under her arm and her back is still "a little sore ... but other than that, I'm doing OK. I'm getting back to normal, whatever normal is. I just have a new normal now."

Manasco also got radiation therapy, but not chemotherapy. She says the radiation therapy didn't hurt, and the health care providers were wonderful. But she found herself "dreading" it because she had to go for radiation so often -- five days a week for seven weeks. "That's just a mental thing," she says.

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