Lutherville mother coping with a terminal illness is dedicating the time she has left to helping others in the end stages of cancer. Those who have been touched by her initiative say the concept is simple, but the impact is inspiring.
Judy Davanzo is working on her to-do list, an ongoing task for any busy mom. But the 48-year-old is especially grateful for every item she gets to accomplish since her breast cancer recurred in 2012, and doctors estimated she had two years to live.
“We kind of joke that I beat my expiration date so far, so anything that I get from here on out, I feel very lucky,” Davanzo said.
Davanzo said her diagnosis made her think about the legacy she wants to leave for her 14-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son. She decided the best way to carry on was to found CaringOn with friend and cancer survivor Lee Kappleman.
“I wanted to take the fear of the future and the focus of what that could be, and take that away from the diagnosis and turn it into a positive,” Kappleman said.
The nonprofit is dedicated to supporting the caregivers of cancer patients.
“It empowers the patient to give back to the person who is giving primarily to them,” Kappleman said.
The concept is simple. Patients nominate a caregiver to receive a surprise gift such as tickets to a baseball game, a meal out with friends or even a day at the spa.
A mother and daughter from Timonium were CaringOn’s first recipients. They spent the afternoon at About Faces, thanks to a request from Bud Voglesong.
“I know that my father felt so wonderful about having the opportunity to do something special for my mom and I,” recipient Leah McGinnity said.
McGinnity said it was wonderful to see her father pull off the surprise less than two months before he died, and knowing that Davanzo, another cancer patient, engineered it all made it even more special.
At home, Davanzo is ensuring that CaringOn will continue after she’s gone. She’s selling necklaces and holding fundraisers to give other cancer patients the chance to express gratitude to caregivers.
“The best part of life is giving to someone else and seeing their pleasure,” Davanzo said.
Davanzo said watching her husband care for her inspired her to create CaringOn.