Thursday, June 23, 2016

A Tribute to My Dear Friend, Kitty Castellini

Between out-of-town guests staying with me for the month, and various other issues going on in my personal life, I've been busy as of late.  But I was really saddened when I learned that my good friend Kitty Castellini passed away on Sunday (June 19, 2016).  I'd met Kitty quite a few times at various diabetes conferences and meetings over the years, but we continued to speak by telephone in between.

Kitty's most widely distributed photo
from Diabetes Living Today®
Kitty, me and my spouse enjoyed the Indianapolis Indians minor league baseball game we attended in Indianapolis a few years ago, and we spent most of the time talking and laughing.  Kitty couldn't drink with her health ailments, and I chose not to drink (I think we were among the few conference attendees who weren't drinking and boozing it up).  I drink occasionally, but beer has never really been my thing, and my spouse doesn't drink, having grown up in a household with too many bad memories of an abusive and alcoholic father, so that kind of ruins the pleasure aspect of drinking.

She did a video when we attended one of the Roche conferences, which can be viewed HERE:

As you might have guessed, Kitty was a fellow person with Type 1 diabetes (having lived with it for some 50 years) perhaps best known for the weekly radio show she previously hosted known as "Diabetes Living Today®".  People need to know that the show was entirely her creation, and she really largely did everything, from identify and subsequently booking guests for the show, design and maintenance of the show's website and in 2007, she even registered for legal trademark protection of Diabetes Living Today®.  But she enjoyed her work, although she was also very protective of it.

Several years ago, her then-business relationship with her former radio co-host Dr. Joseph J. Fallon started to deteriorate.  He, in Kitty's own words, "thought he was going to be the next Dr. Oz" and he tried to claim ownership rights to "Diabetes Living Today®", which as I noted, Kitty started, owned, arranged all of the guests, came up with the agenda for the program, managed the show's website, even owned all the trademarks.  Just because she wasn't an MD didn't mean she was clueless.  When Dr. Fallon tried to claim ownership of the program (my impression was he tried to bully her), Kitty did not take the threat lying down, even though she was beginning to have her own health issues.

Happier times with Kitty and Dr. Fallon
I think they basically ended up in court (or at least she threatened to sue him with a boatload of legal documents) and because Kitty had mountains and mountains of documentation to support her rightful ownership of the program, and because Dr. Fallon lacked any of Kitty's expertise in actually running the show, he wasn't able to start his own competing show, so he somewhat unceremoniously went away without getting his own celebrity doctor show he envisioned, or much else.  Kitty joked about it after-the-fact, but it was a very stressful period for her.  Incidentally, the archives of her radio show are still available for the time-being at so I'd encourage you to listen to some of the archived shows.  I'm likely to download a few so I can still hear her voice when I'm in a nostalgic kind of mood and still want to hear her voice, but its not like talking to her on the phone was.

I mentioned that Kitty was having some health issues.  Actually, Kitty underwent a Pancreas transplant in 2004 (I don't recall that being diabetes-related even if she got a break from using insulin for a few years).  Indeed, at the time, she was the longest pancreas-alone transplant patient in the entire world, but her transplanted pancreas failed in 2013 from a virus, which meant she went back on an insulin pump.  Fortunately, she took it all in stride, and because she knew all about insulin and pumps having used them for decades, she was able to return without too much difficulty.  But then, to make matters even worse, in July 2015, Kitty found out she was no longer just dealing with diabetes and a failed pancreas transplant, she had leukemia too.  Her husband Gary was really wonderful through the entire experience, if Kitty's phone calls were any reflection.

Kitty and Gary Kleiman.  Look how long her hair was then!
I'm personally very heartbroken about Kitty and I'll miss her, but as I mentioned on Facebook, I know that now, she is in perfect health and able to look down at her many, many friends and family.

Tonight are the services for Kitty in South Jersey.  I wish I was able to go and pay my respects, but its a several hour drive and I have several guests who are in from out-of-the-country whom I can't just dump.  I will instead honor her wishes with a gift to one of both the charities she asked people remember her with.  Her obituary is HERE and she asked that memorial donations be made to the JDRF or the Cumberland County SPCA.  She continues to be remembered on social media, and the following hashtags have been generated in honor of Kitty: #DOC4Kitty and #welovekitty  - as others have mentioned, use them with love and across all social media platforms.

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