Judy Davanzo had about 52 notebooks filled up with visions of ideas she had for her nonprofit, CaringOn, which gives gifts of time to a cancer patient’s caregiver.
But Davanzo, who passed away after a long battle with cancer Saturday, didn’t just come up with great ideas, recalled Lee Kappelman, CaringOn’s co-founder.
“She was a doer,” Kappelman said.
Davanzo, 49, was first diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in her early 30s. She beat the disease, only to have it come back in 2012. Then, it had metastasized to her liver.
“At stage 2, I knew I was going to get out of it,” Davanzo told ABC2 last October. “I could see the end. At stage 4, I’m going to get out of it in a different way.”
Kappelman, herself a breast cancer survivor, met Davanzo in 2003 at the Maryland Athletic Club, as both were undergoing chemotherapy and trying to keep up their strength.
Kappelman hadn’t seen Davanzo for several years when she ran into her in 2012. But that time, Davanzo was totally bald.
“She was pretty much terminal. I was shocked,” Kappelman said.
Davanzo was upset about her diagnosis—but she was mostly upset for her husband, Drew, who would once again have to take care of her.
And so the idea for CaringOn was born.
Through CaringOn, patients with advanced cancer can express their gratitude to their caregivers by giving them time to do something for themselves. That could mean a few hours of sleep in a hotel, a day at a spa or a day out at a ballgame, to name a few things.
Since 2013, CaringOn has given out 25 gifts.
“It gave Judy the ability to focus on what she does—which is give to other people,” Kappelman said.
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Davanzo was an incredibly social person who drew strength and energy from being around others, Kappelman recalled. CaringOn was everything to her.
“She blossomed around people,” Kappelman said.
Kim Schmulowitz, director of marketing and communications for Komen Maryland, said Davanzo was a big supporter of Komen through her Race for the Cure team, SSJ, which stood for Stay Strong Judy. She always had a huge smile on her face, despite her illness, Schmulowitz said.
The fact that she cared so much about the caregivers of cancer patients is especially moving, Schmulowitz said.
"She just was a blend of positivity and light and energy," she said.
Kelly Kessler, Komen Maryland's community health director, said CaringOn fills an importance niche because it allows cancer patients to say thank you to their caregivers.
"One of the things that can be very difficult is they feel like they can't give back," Kessler said.
Davanzo was a positive person through the end, Kessler said, always laughing and joking.
Davanzo is survived by her husband of 18 years, Drew, her daughter Reese and her son Trace.
A viewing has been set for Thursday at Ruck Funeral Home at 1050 York Road in Towson, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., as well as from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. A memorial service will be at 11 a.m. Friday at the Church of the Nativity, 20 E. Ridgely Road Timonium.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations in Davanzo’s memory be made to CaringOn via the website or to CaringOn, PO Box 851, Brooklandville, Md., 21022.