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
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.
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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
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
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