Faith has gotten Grace Navarro through a lot.
Born in Tijuana, Mexico, Navarro immigrated to Glendale in 1968, where she worked as a waitress at restaurants such as IHOP, Grinder and Conrad’s.
Now 73, Navarro is working at the First Baptist Church of Glendale as a receptionist, serving community members with her spiritual support.
Recently diagnosed with breast cancer, the mother of six children and grandmother to 18 has fought her fear of the disease by allowing her faith to dictate her fate.
Silva Sevlian recently sat down with Navarro to discuss her life.
What are your feelings toward your cancer?
I’m not afraid of having cancer surgery on my breast. I don’t know the stage [of the cancer], but I didn’t ask because it is what is and I’m going to live one day at a time, and I have the Lord with me.
When were you diagnosed, and what thoughts were going through your head?
I was diagnosed Sept. 15 through a physical. I think there is a certain amount of fear in all of us. The first thing was, well, by the time you go to X-Ray and they tell you they see something you stop and think “hmm, they found something — is it going to be cancer or not?” Your mind starts working that way.
By the time they do a biopsy, it’s a 50-50 chance. Either “no, I’m free” or “you have it,” and when he said “you have it,” it was a shock.
Have I had tears? Yes, but I still have joy because I’m not walking it alone. I have the Lord carrying me through and holding my hand. I’m holding tight.
I’m not thinking “why me?” Because why not me? With me it’s not a fear because it is what it is, and to be upset and worried is not going to help me cross the heavy-duty bridge that’s coming ahead.
So many women are afraid of hearing it, but the longer you take to hear it, the more it will grow and turn into a devastating thing.
How has your life been affected by cancer?
I look tired now because I’ve been cleaning the house because everyone’s coming to take care of me after the surgery. But I have a feeling I’m not going to be sick, so it will be nice to have the family around. It will be like one big party.
I’m going to have a partial mastectomy operation at the Glendale Adventist.
I have the best doctors in the world. I went down to get my pre-op things ready, and everyone was so loving! They hugged me and they kissed me, and I said “hmm, are they trying to say goodbye to me?”
They treated me like Queen Elizabeth had walked in. How nice it is to be loved by strangers. I always loved strangers but this time, going through this, all these people that I’ve never met before give me so much love. It’s just beautiful.
When I was diagnosed, my children made sure that at least one of them was with me. When I went to see my surgeon, he directed the attention to my girls and told them the chances of them having [cancer] and the treatment they should follow. To me that was such a blessing.
How long have you been with the church?
Ten years. I’m the receptionist — like a gofer.
I do a little bit of everything.
I’ve been a waitress almost all my life.
I worked for the Grinder as an assistant manager, then I worked as Conrad’s as a server — I’ve been around. I love serving people.
How is your service different at the church?
The service is different because there I’m physically serving a lot of people a day, and here I serve individually and I pray for the people who need prayer. Before I used to serve people, and now I’m serving the Lord.
What does your community mean to you?
Glendale means home, happiness. It’s part of my history and part of my life. If 17-year-old Grace were to meet 73-year-old Grace, how would she feel?
Seventeen-year-old Grace was fearful of life and the future. I still had the same love for people but I was afraid of tomorrow, not knowing what a beautiful tomorrow I had.
Now, I’m living to the fullest.