Thursday, April 24 2014 3:47 PM EDT2014-04-24 19:47:30 GMT
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Thirty-one years old is young to be diagnosed with breast cancer, so it came as a surprise to Holly Correll. Faith played a big role in Holly's cancer journey, as did her two young children. Although Holly lost her battle last December, the way she lived her life inspired so many that this year's first Findlay Race for the Cure is named "In Memory of" Holly Correll.
Her family will tell you their lives will never be the same without their mom, sister, and daughter.
Her sister Rhonda Barto describes her as "Bubbly." Her brother, Jon remembers, "If she walked into a room, the room would light up!"
Holly grew up in Tiffin and settled there when she had her kids, son Jeremy and daughter, Olivia. It was in 2006 that she found a lump in her breast and went to the doctor to have it checked out. She was having lunch with Jeremy at school when her cell phone rang. Jeremy says he remembers it like yesterday.
"She got the phone call and I knew right away what it was," Jeremy said through tears.
Holly's dad Jerry said the family wasn't really too worried when she was first diagnosed.
"My wife Diana, her sister had breast cancer but it went into remission and never came back and I figured well, that's what will happen with Holly" said Jerry.
After a partial mastectomy, chemo and radiation, Holly was in remission for several years, living life to the fullest with her family and friends. But in September of 2011, Holly went to the hospital in pain and doctors found the cancer had returned to her bones. It was stage 4.
Rhonda says Holly's first thoughts were about her children.
"She was just concerned about not being there the rest of their lives, missing their graduations, birthdays, weddings," said Rhonda.
So Holly found ways to make lasting memories with Jeremy and Olivia in those final months--even letting them shave her head when her hair was falling out from chemo. Olivia feels her mom did a good job of hiding her sickness from them.
"She probably would have given up if she didn't have a family," Olivia said. "She said if it wasn't for us, she'd be lost."
Holly's family and her faith kept her going longer than the doctors expected, but eventually it became clear that Holly wasn't going to be able to fight the cancer much longer. Jon remembers how strong and giving she was right up to the end.
"On her deathbed, I'll never forget: the cousins, aunts, uncles--everyone in the room--she said a prayer for each and every one of them. She's like ‘Don't worry about me, God has a bigger plan for me. Don't lose your faith...just keep doing what you're doing,'" recalled Jon.
"I always had faith," said her father Jerry through tears. "I never ever believed that she was ever going to die. Right up until the last day I just couldn't believe she was ever going to leave."
On December 18th of last year, Holly Correll took her last breath.
"She fought this a lot longer than they said," Rhonda explains. "They gave her roughly 6 months and she made it over a year and a half."
Holly's cancer journey was so inspirational to so many that this year's first Findlay Race for the Cure will be run in memory of Holly Correll. Her family knows Holly will be there with them in spirit, as she is every day. They're proud for Holly to receive this honor.
"I know she's my sister and it sounds kind of corny, but she's the toughest woman i ever had the pleasure of knowing," Jon said with tears in his eyes.
"I still feel her in my heart always. There isn't a day that goes by that i don't think about her," agreed her father Jerry.