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"> Trina Mangano is Battling Cancer on Her Own Terms | USA Lacrosse Magazine

Lacrosse has played a big part in the family's lives. Rachel played in high school, Olivia is a senior at Loyola, Trina is an internationally-rated official and Maddy is on the staff at Temple after playing at Loyola.

Trina Mangano is Battling Cancer on Her Own Terms

 On Friday, Trina Mangano will finish packing up her house in Florida, move her belongings to a storage unit and head north to Baltimore.

She doesn’t know when she’ll back. What she knows is that she’s moving into an apartment less than a mile from the Johns Hopkins Hospital to begin bi-weekly chemotherapy treatments.

It’s a process that in some ways she knows all too well. In other ways, she has no idea what to expect.

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This time last year, Mangano also was on her way to Baltimore. The longtime official had received the highest honor of her career, being selected to officiate in the 2017 Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) Women’s World Cup in Guildford, England. She came to Baltimore to get ready for the World Cup by officiating in the Team USA Fall Classic at US Lacrosse.

She worked three games on the first Saturday of October before returning home to Florida, where she worked a play day at Jacksonville University. But something wasn’t right.

“I had to tap out during the last game,” Mangano said. “I’ve never tapped out before.”

A trip to the doctor revealed devastating news — ovarian cancer.

"I had to tap out during the last game. I’ve never tapped out before."

What did it mean for her life? What did it mean for her family? What did it mean for her dream of officiating at the World Cup?

She had questions, few answers, but attacked the disease head on. She moved to Utah for the winter, staying with her sister while undergoing chemotherapy treatments at the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah. She went through six rounds of treatments, once every three weeks.

Her hair fell out, but she stayed positive.

“They called me the happy cancer patient,” Mangano said.

And the truth was, she had her happy moments.

“I’d feel terrible for two weeks, but then my numbers would start coming up and I’d feel great,” Mangano said.

Mangano had tough moments as well. Her daughter, Olivia, is a senior on the lacrosse team at Loyola. Her older daughter, Maddy, is on the staff at Temple after a standout playing career at Loyola. She missed all of their games.

Mangano’s youngest daughter, Rachel, was a freshman at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island last year. Mangano’s treatments prevented her from attending any of the school’s family weekend events or help her daughter adjust to life as a new college student.

Over her officiating career, Mangano has been active on and off the field. She officiated at the 2015 FIL U19 World Championship in Scotland, has worked NCAA playoff games, serves on the US Lacrosse Training Committee and is a clinician for the Collegiate Women’s Lacrosse Officials Association, among other roles.

During her time in Utah, she worked as an officials observer and did some ratings at a playday, but she desperately wanted to get back on the field, specifically for the World Cup.

“It got me through the winter,” Mangano said. “It kept me moving and gave me something to work towards.”

It appeared she was going to get her wish. But she felt like something was wrong, even as people told her it was just a side effect of the chemotherapy. She trudged on, training and getting herself in shape for the World Cup.

She was literally days away from her dream when she came to the realization that she simply couldn’t go.

“It was awful,” Mangano said. “I worked so hard to get to it and I was planning on going up until the week before. I talked to my doctor, and I just didn’t feel comfortable. I wasn’t sleeping well.”

The eventual diagnosis blindsided her. Colon cancer. Two separate, and unrelated, cancers in less than a year. And this time it’s stage III.  You wouldn’t know it when you talk to her.

“I feel fine,” Mangano said. “I’m the healthiest sick person I know. I had surgery three weeks ago and I’ve been back at work for a week and a half.”

Olivia, Rachel and Maddy Blakeman with their mother, Trina Mangano.

But now Mangano faces the next phase, and it will be even more difficult. For the second time in less than a year, she’s had to leave her job as a teacher at Saint Edward’s School in Vero Beach, Fla. She faces six months of bi-weekly chemotherapy treatments. She doesn’t know how her body will handle the treatment.

Mangano’s friends from the lacrosse officiating community have organized a GoFundMe page to help the financial side of her battle.

She chose to come to Baltimore for her treatments this time, because she wanted more control of her life.

“When you have cancer, nobody lets you make any decisions,” Mangano said. “I’m sort of digging in my heels a little bit this time. “

Mangano has family nearby, but she wants to be as independent as possible, whether that’s walking to treatments when she’s able to or taking an Uber. She hopes she feels well enough to see some of her daughters’ games.

These are all things she wants to do. She just doesn’t know what lies ahead.

“It just sucks to have two cancers in a year,” Mangano said. “I thought I was getting my life back. This is much harder. I don’t know if I’m going to have the life I’ve had before. With the way the game is going with everything so much faster, I don’t know if I’ll get back on the field again. I can still do things to help, but I don’t think I’ll be doing a D-I game. It’s just sad. I’ve kind of come to terms with that.”

It’s an understandable sadness, but one that won’t dominate a strong spirit. Late this summer, Mangano was on the water doing one of the things she loves, paddle boarding. On her Facebook page, she summed up the moment, “Making lemonade out of lemons…a good reminder that I'm still lucky for the life I live.”