Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Dear Kitty: Thank-You, We Love You, And the Diabetes Online Community Will Miss You~

Rest in peace, Kitty~
Kitty Castellini was not only an amazing Diabetes Advocate, diabadass and a true original  - she was funny, smart and tougher than most and Kitty was "good people."  
She broke down barriers in her careers with the Laborors' Union of North America and Diabetes Living Today
 Kitty was the longest survivor of a pancreas only transplant - 13 years (since 2004,) and vowed to use her second chance to help people living with diabetes. 
She founded Diabetes Living Today and hosted a radio show of the same name, on 92.1 WVLT. 
 Kitty was honored by Congress for her work and commitment to diabetes, and was an early member of the Diabetes Online Community. 
An an amazing lady and one of our own, who was loved by many, including me. 
Her legacy is a strong one - she is part of our DOC history and we must continue to remember, honor,  learn and continue to be inspired  by her. 
Thank-you, Kitty. 
Dear Kitty - 
I want to thank you for fighting the good fight when it came to diabetes and living with diabetes. 
I want to thank you for your friendship, honesty, humor and tenacity. 
When you were given a second chance with your new pancreas, you decided to use your voice to help others living with diabetes and that’s exactly what you did, by creating a live radio show called Diabetes Living Today, devoted to helping people with diabetes live thier best lives. 
You became a voice for diabetes on-air and off and I know that all of us are grateful to you.

Kitty, you were known for always telling it like it was to everyone, no matter who they were or what they did. 
If you didn’t agree with someone, be it pharma, research or an individual, you’d make them know and you’d make them think.
You sit there in a conference and take it all in - scribbling notes and figuring out your next move - and then you'd stand up to speak and you'd set the room on fire.
You also had the ability to act as peacemaker when needed.
If you saw a disagreement between people who needed to work together, you would quietly take them aside individually and tell them to work together - and they would. 
Your zest for living proved to everyone who met you in person or on-line, that a person could indeed deal with monumental health challenges with grace, style, a strong will, and a wicked sense of humor. 
You were not only funny and kind - you were one smart cookie. 
Before your life in broadcasting, you were a freaking Explosives Expert! 
You had your Federal license in chemicals and explosives and you were considered an expert in Fine and Finished Grade, New Bridge Construction.
When you would tell people your background, you’d laugh out loud when they’d react in awe and say: Yep, I really am one tough bitch!

Kitty, thank-you for being my friend.
I remember the first time we talked on the phone after I read about you in a newspaper back in 2007. I’d just started diabetesaliciousness and I thought you were awesome. 
A mutual friend gave me your number and I called you right up.  
We ended up talked for over two hours. You shared with me the loss of your older sister to diabetes, and we discovered we had a lot in common. 
That was the first of many marathon phone conversations that always made me laugh. 
You bragged about your magnificent daughter and husband and proudly stated that you were a freak re: all things Disney related.
The very first Roche Conference in 2008
Kitty is in the front row, second from the right.
I remember sitting with your in the airport on our way to Orlando for the 2010 Roche Summit and laughing out loud as you pulled out a WaWa boloney, american cheese with mustard sandwich, on white bread and I thought you were crazy in the best way possible. 

I remember landing at the Orlando Airport and you telling our driver to “hold on and wait,” because you had to stop at the Disney Airport store and pickup a rare and hard to get, official Disney Dooney & Burke Disney handbag
You’d called the shop the day before to see if they had it, paid for it over the the phone and they were holding it for you. Our flight had been delayed by a few hours and all I wanted to do was get to the hotel - but you told me to relax and enjoy the moment. 
And that’s what I did. And I belly laughed out loud when you walked out with your perfect soap opera hair and fab new handbag in hand. 

I remember driving to Vineland,NJ to be a guest on your radio show and going to the The Outback Stake House with you for an early dinner - and I remember laughing at you because you went to town on your meal!  

Who could forget that day in Indianapolis that you, me and a bunch of other Diabetes went on a quest for a particular cupcake shop. A quest that was supposed to only be a few blocks away, but ended up being like two miles away - and it was 90+ degrees out, no breeze and crazy humidity. 
Our group found the cupcake shop and we ate them with gusto - in the air-conditioned shop and called for cabs to take us back to the hotel.
Before the quest for cupcakes in Indiana.
Kitty center, white shirt, second row from the bottom. 
I was always inspired and blown away by your resilience and kindness to others, including me - even when you were dealing with your own tremendous health issues. 
I remember after my mother died, you would call and check to see how I was doing and comforted me when I needed it most. 

During the many of the conferences we attended, you would have to go back to your room right after dinner and rest because that’s what your body required.
But first thing in the morning - you were a firecracker of diabetes advocacy and passion, advocating for others with a vengeance! 

Every time we talked on the phone it would be at least an hour conversation - and often much longer because you were a communicator. 

And as much as I thank you - I need to apologize to you as well. 

I should have called you more this year. We facebooked, emailed, and texted, but I should have called more than I did, and I apologize for that. 
One of the last times we spoke, you told me you were really sick and would call back because you were on your way to the hospital. 
That didn’t happen because you were not only “really sick,” you were incredibly ill. 
When you finally did come home, you were to weak to talk - and soon you were back in the hospital. 
I remember another time calling and and you telling me: I can’t talk, I’m too sick. 
And that would be when you began what was to be your final, long battle - your transplanted pancreas was failing and it was excruciating - you were truly fighting for your life. 

On Sunday evening, June 19th, you went to heaven, and the world has less spark because of your absence, 

And as much as I will miss you, I know that you are at peace and will continue to watch over your daughter Lauren and husband Gary, from above. 
I know you’re up there in the stars, spending time with your son and your sister. 
You’re with the people you love, dancing and eating a never ending bowl of Reese’s Butter Cups - your favorite, my mom’s favorite, and mine. 
And I’m keeping my fingers crossed that you, my mom, and my sister will get together and finally get a chance to meet up. 

Thank you Kitty - Thank you for everything. 
I’m going to miss you and I’m going to try and do right by your memory. 
Not only as an integral part of our history in the Diabetes Online Community, but as a friend.
And when I feel tired, I will remind myself how strong your will was, even when your body was not.
Lastly, I LOVE you, Kitty - and I hope with all my heart that you will find peace, laughter, and freedom amongst the stars - because now you are one of them. 
Kelly Kunik
#welovekitty #DOC4Kitty

Kitty’s obituary can be found HERE
And much like Kitty, it’s pretty damn impressive and contains links to two charities,
JDRF and the Cumberland Country S.P.C.A , who are accepting donations in memory of Kitty.  
Also, the following hashtags have been generated in honor of Kitty: #DOC4Kitty and #welovekitty  - use them with love and across all social media platforms. 

1 comment:

Rick Phillips said...

The loss of Kitty is a tremendous loss for our community. Thank you for the most complete write up I have read.

I referred your article to the TUDiabetes.org blog page for the week of June 20, 2016.