My dear friend, Kitty Castellini passed away this week. She lived with type 1 diabetes for over 50 years. Kitty was a longtime diabetes advocate and president and founder of Diabetes Living Today. In July 2105, Kitty found out she was no longer just fighting diabetes, but leukemia too.
And she said this, “I’m going to fight my ass off.”
She did. Weeks later, sick and exhausted from treatments and frustrated from being trapped at home, she asked me to brainstorm story ideas for her diabetes site with her so she’d be ready to roll the moment she felt up to it.
That was Kitty. Kind and funny, a fighter, and a person who loved many. She was a great communicator, but more than that, she was almost a conduit, linking the diabetes online community in ways that truly built it into what it is today.
Kitty’s passing leaves a void on this earth, but like Kitty always did, she continues to link us together. Friends who have not had time to chat in ages are messaging away. Groups are sharing their tales of her. It’s like a big, giant episode of her beloved Diabetes Living Today. And we all are the guests.
Christel Marchand Aprigliano, who goes by “Writer. Speaker. Disrupter. Atypical Advocate.” And who is CEO of The Diabetes Collective, also holds another proud title: FOK (Friend of Kitty).
“Kitty holds a special place in my heart. She was one of the “originals” and the first “real diabetes advocate” I met in person at the first Roche Social Media Summit. I was always in awe of her fire and powerful voice. She taught me to lead with passion and to look to the community for support and to give support where it was needed.”
Diabetes advocate, Kelly Kunik, author of the blog Diabetesaliciousness, says, “Kitty was a fighter, an amazing diabetes advocate, diabadass, and a true original. She had heart, and when she was given a second chance with her new pancreas, she used her voice to help people living with diabetes. We were lucky to have her on our side, fighting for us and with us. And we were lucky to have her as our friend. I loved Kitty, I’m going to miss her, and I will continue to be inspired by Kitty.” At Medtronic, where Kitty served as a brand ambassador, the loss is personal.
“We are saddened to learn of the passing of Kitty Castellini. Over the years we have had the pleasure to get to know Kitty very well and she was a valuable member of the Medtronic family and diabetes community. She participated in our MiniMed Ambassador program, would regularly guest blog for Medtronic on the LOOP, and was always interested in finding new ways to help reach more people living with diabetes. She was a true advocate and her legacy of strength and inspiration has reshaped our community. In addition, Kitty was a great friend and was always reaching out to people to see how she could help them. She will be greatly missed. On behalf of the entire Medtronic team, I share our condolences and utmost respect in honor of a life well lived,” spokesman Amanda Sheldon said.
Twitter, too, is alive with thoughts and memories all centered around Kitty. (Search the hashtags #WeLoveKitty and #DOC4Kitty to get a feel.)
So I’ve been asking myself what can I do to honor her memory? I think, beginning now, I’m going to strive to be a little More Kitty.
I’m going to try to be more of a conduit and connect those in the diabetes community (and elsewhere) who need to feel support and connection.
I’m going to try to be outspoken and brave about my feelings around diabetes issues.
I’m going to try to smile and laugh more. Kitty was so good at that.
But I’m going to miss her so very much. And so, each day as I strive to be More Kitty, I’ll just say it out loud like she did, “I’m going to fight my ass off.”