TOLEDO -- Each year, hundreds of breast cancer survivors join in the Race for the Cure. But each year we also lose some dear friends to the disease. This year's race is dedicated to the memory of Georgie Navarro, who helped raise money and awareness for breast cancer for years before being diagnosed herself.
Family time at the Navarro house always centers around a meal, but these days there's one less glass to fill at family gatherings. And there's an emptiness that'll never be filled.
Jason Navarro says there hasn't been a day, an hour, or even a minute when he hasn't thought of his mom, Georgie Navarro.
Georgie was a wife to Bob; mom to Jason, Erin and Nicki; and Grandma to Nicholas. She was young -- just 52 -- when a mammogram discovered her stage two breast cancer. Determined to beat it with a smile on her face, Georgie underwent a double mastectomy and chemotherapy.
Jason tells News 11, "She didn't want us to worry so she put on a brave face and made us smile, and always focused on the positive, and that was a blessing to us."
Georgie's daughter Erin says, "When she was going through chemo she worked through it. You wouldn't have known that she was going through chemo. She was radiant. She was gorgeous."
Daughter Nicki told us, "She has a picture of me and Erin both on her arms, and while my dad was snapping the picture she pulled her hair off -- just fun and lively."
Georgie's friend Debbie Kessler says, "If we would have a dinner party or whatever it was, when she walked in the room you always had fun. Even with her cancer, she always made it a fun time to be around her."
Her radiance and positive attitude inspired her friends and family members. Georgie used her experience to help other women. She became a Reach to Recovery volunteer with the American Cancer Society, offering support to women newly-diagnosed with breast cancer.
Her husband Bob says, "She was just what the doctor ordered. She walked in, took control, got everybody settled down, talked about the right way to go. She was very good because she believed in it.
Georgie raised money and awareness for breast cancer, co-chairing an annual golf event at Stone Oak that raised thousands of dollars for Susan G. Komen for the Cure. But in 2003, doctors told Georgie her cancer was back, this time in her spine, and there was nothing they could do. Georgie fought with everything she had, but as the family gathered to welcome the New Year, 2006, Georgie told them it was time to go.
Bob says, "No matter how much you try to prepare yourself for something like this, when it happens you're not prepared. You're just not."
Nicki told us, "Her and I had this conversation where she said 'Nick, I'm not going to make it' -- and I said, 'You're not going anywhere, Mom, you're just changing. You'll always be right here.' I pointed to my heart, right here."
Georgie Navarro died January 5, 2006.
Erin says, "She told us that any time we saw a cardinal, that was her coming back. And I've never had cardinals in my yard, ever, and as soon as she passed away there were cardinals."
"I talk to my cardinal," Erin says. "I look for it and I feel like I'm talking to her. She gave that gift to me and I really appreciate that."
Georgie planted herself deep in the hearts of her family because she believed that to live in the hearts of those left behind is not to die.
Her husband Bob says, "She was such an inspiring person for me, for my children, our friends. She made me a much better person, and I thought to myself God had other plans for her and I can't cry because she's gone. I need to live and celebrate her life."