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Me and the Girls: Mary Manasco

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When Manasco completed her first round of radiation therapy in 2008, after her lumpectomy, she got to hold her first grandchild, who had been born a week earlier. But after her mastectomy, she couldn't pick her up while she recovered from the surgery. "She's a squirmy, wiggly, heavy 11-month-old and she was just way too much to hold," Manasco says.

"She doesn't really want to be held anyway ... she's probably, like, 'Thank goodness that old woman isn't kissing on me all the time!" Manasco laughs. "But it's been hard to not even be able to pick her up."

Choosing reconstruction: Manasco chose to undergo breast reconstruction after her double mastectomy. But she says she wasn't emotional about losing her breasts.

"If I were younger, it might have," Manasco says. "I'm old enough -- having a breast or not did not matter one bit to me. I even considered not having reconstruction and, who knows, maybe wear a prosthesis, maybe not."

Manasco says her appearance after her mastectomy "did not even bother me the first time that I saw when the bandages were off .... the part about being alive and assuming everything is taken care of is much more important."

Ultimately, she decided to go ahead with reconstruction. "I can be Dolly Parton if I want to, but I don't want to," she laughs. "I had big enough breasts the first time ... I just want clothes to look halfway decent. I don't really care. The fact that I've had two different episodes [with breast cancer] and I'm really feeling fine -- that's the main thing."

Clean sheets, new pajamas: If you want to do something kind for a breast cancer patient, Manasco has some advice.

  • Change their sheets. "Crisp, clean sheets feel so good when you first get in them. You're in the bed at least half the time for the first few weeks" after a mastectomy, Manasco says.
  • Get them some button-down pajamas and shirts. While recovering from a mastectomy, button-down tops are easier.
  • Volunteer to wash their hair. "My husband washed my hair," Manasco says. "He was pouring the whole pitcher full at one time. I'm like, I'm drowning! Just rinse it gently! But he did a wonderful job... take somebody to get their hair cut -- those kinds of things that women understand and guys don't."

"Having casseroles or salads or food -- that's awesome. Flowers are wonderful. But the little things, like clean sheets or going to find you a new pair of pajamas that button down the front because you're sick of the others -- those are the little things that women understand," Manasco says.

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Reviewed on September 18, 2009

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