Vineland woman fights diabetes on radio

The following is from the December 26, 2007 edition of “The Atlantic City Press“:

Kitty Castellini, who had a pancreas transplant to beat the disease, has weekly show
By JULIET FLETCHER Staff Writer, 856-237-9020
(Published: December 26, 2007)

VINELAND – Ever since she tackled her diabetes, Kitty Castellini has vowed to raise her voice to reach others like her.

But she now finds herself in front of a microphone once per week, in a soundproof Vineland studio, broadcasting to four states.

And by her side is one of her doctors, endocrinologist Joseph Fallon, one of the first specialists she approached and himself a diabetic.

Every week, the pair beam out an entire hour of talk radio devoted to debunking and demystifying the illness and its many treatments.

When Castellini, 46, made a statement earlier in August to prove she had beaten the condition by spooning down an ice-cream sundae with peanut-butter cups, she was later brought into the studio at WVLT for a one-off interview.

Following that, Fallon says, the station invited her to make a more regular appearance. “And she invited me,” he said Monday.

Not that he sees this as an enjoyable diversion. “It’s not about fun, let me tell you. We have 8 percent of people in this country with diabetes. We have such a need.”

The duo is well-used to working together: After Castellini received a pancreas-only transplant in 2004, she turned to Fallon as a co-collaborator on a book in the works about her experience. Her giggly ebullience on the air – punctuated by chirpy anecdotes about her treatment and offering props to fellow survivor-guests – should be contrasted, Fallon says, by her debilitated condition before treatment began. “At one point, remember, she was blind,” he said. “She was beaten up to heck.”

The show, Diabetes Living Today, which launched in early December and goes out on WLVT every Tuesday at 8 p.m., has offered a departure for Castellini, in part, she says, because it busts open and reveals the collaborative relationship between a doctor and his patient – by mutual consent, of course.

“I really think it takes something that is so sacred, the privacy between doctor and patient kept behind closed doors, and brings it right out in the open,” she said, “and that is awesome.”

With Fallon as her foil, Castellini now pours her energy into enlisting fascinating – and sometimes very prestigious – guests for the show, which is sponsored by Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Camden and the Diabetes Research Institute at the University of Miami. On a recent broadcast, she chatted with Robert Lawless, of Mays Landing, who has undergone two transplants and two cell-implanting operations in his fight against the disease since being diagnosed at 12.

“Diabetes affects every cell of the body,” he explained Monday. He appeared on the show, he said, because “I wanted to do something to prevent that devastation.”

And that educational reach is a factor Dr. Fallon says hospitals should not ignore. “Most hospitals lose money on diabetes patients,” he explained. “They have just so many conditions.” Advocating prevention – by telling people how to spot Type 2 diabetes, which can be developed – and otherwise advising current patients on up-and-coming treatments might be a way to help patients to handle the disease more effectively.

Fallon, of Woodbury, says once a month the show clashes with his meetings of the Medical Society of New Jersey. “That night, I’ll be on call by phone to answer anything,” he said. For his commitment to the show, Castellini rewards him with a persistent nickname, she says. “I call him my rockin’ doc.”

Diabetes patients interested in contacting or appearing on the show can contact Castellini at kittycastellini@aol.com.

To e-mail Juliet Fletcher at The Press:

JFletcher@pressofac.com