Faces of survival: Emma Lou Nichols

Emma Lou Nichols is holding an inspirational book titled Encouragement, which includes a Bible verse and discussion on each page. "It means a lot to me," she said.

"We never know when it's going to happen to us."


Emma Lou Nichols

Her background

AGE: 82

FAMILY: Sons, Anthony, 57, and Gary, 54

DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT: March 2010; mastectomy


Nichols said she always expected that one day she would have breast cancer. Aunts on both sides of her family had had it: One died from it and one lived 40 more years cancer free.

She was religious about getting her annual mammogram, and her gynecologist had not seen anything unusual at an appointment in November.

But she didn't hesitate to call her doctor in March when she discovered the lump while shaving her armpits.

Nichols was too frail to have the surgery right away. Her weight had dropped after her husband died in September, but after two months of drinking four cans of Boost nutritional supplement a day, she underwent a mastectomy in June.

"So far, a part of my arm is still numb," she said. "It takes awhile to be able to recoup from things."


"I was brought up on prayer," she said. "I've been praying all my life. So has my family. I just lean on God."

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