Eartha Kitt was an internationally renowned star and performer who distinguished herself in film, theater, cabaret, music and on television. Eartha was diagnosed at age 80 with stage III colon cancer. She passed away in 2008, but not without a fight. Passionate about carrying on her mother’s voice, Kitt Shapiro, Eartha’s daughter, has partnered with the Colon Cancer Alliance to share her mother’s story and raise awareness.
My Mother’s Roots
I was my mother’s only family. Her mother died when she was young and she never knew her father. I think, in many ways, I gave her roots. She would often introduce us, saying “I’m Eartha and this is Kitt,” as if I completed her. And, I think, in many ways, I did.
My mother was a visionary in so many ways; people don’t realize that she was so much more than her celebrity persona.
For instance, my mother was ‘green’ and ‘organic’ way before it was chic. Our house in Beverly Hills had a huge vegetable garden as well as an aviary with chickens and roosters. True to her name, she was the most comfortable with her hands in the dirt. She despised processed and refined foods and encouraged friends to eat only local, in season, produce. Even when she lived in a New York City apartment, she always had a little window garden growing baby lettuces and herbs.
She was always physically fit. As a child, I remember thinking that my mother and Jack La Lanne were the only two crazy people who exercised every day.
Diagnosed with Colon Cancer
My mother was never screened for colon cancer, feeling that she was always healthy enough that she didn’t need see a doctor.
Oddly enough, she was diagnosed at age 80 with colon cancer because she was having pain in her hands. My mother did needlepoint and had developed carpal tunnel. The pain had gotten so bad that she was referred to a rheumatologist who after blood tests came back told us that there was some internal bleeding and she needed to get checked as soon as possible. That’s when she had the colonoscopy and endoscopy and the tumor was found.
My mother felt that everything happens for a reason. I have definitely inherited that belief. She would often say “God may not be there when you want him, but he’s always on time.” And, as I have tattooed on my wrist “Don’t Panic.”
After she was diagnosed, she was very calm. She felt that if it was her time, then she had lived an amazing life and was truly blessed. But, I don’t think she truly believed the disease would take her. Her survival instincts were too ingrained to allow her mind to give up, even when her body could no longer fight.
Getting Involved with the Colon Cancer Alliance
Colons are not as sexy as breasts. And, unless you’re a pre-teen boy, discussing digestion is not socially acceptable. But (pun intended), the screening is nothing to be apprehensive about. The prep, is annoying, although if you think of it as a detox, it’s not so bad. And, if you start screening early, if a polyp is found, it can be snipped off during the procedure.
On my own, I cannot find a cure for cancer. But when it comes to colon cancer, if I can help educate people to be proactive and get screened, it is a cancer I may be able to help reduce, and with the ripple effect of awareness, eliminate for good.
That’s why I’m partnering with Colon Cancer Alliance - to help educate the importance of screening and early detection, so that possibly, one other person can be spared from suffering.
My mother’s voice is still being heard. Not only through her music, but also, now, through me.
Creative Ways of Saving Lives: The Card.com Partnership
Through a unique partnership with Card.com, Kitt has been able to both raise awareness and support the mission in an innovative way. For every cardholder that signs up for direct deposit with the Eartha Kitt card during March and April, Card.com will donate $10 to the Colon Cancer Alliance.
I love the concept of prepaid debit cards. As the mother of teenagers and young adults, I think they are a good way to teach financial independence and awareness. I like being able to have a card that reflects a person’s personality and tastes like cell phone cases do. I also like companies that believe in philanthropy, and Card.com started this program.
I thought it was a good opportunity to help spread the word and bring attention to colon cancer. And, March being Colon Cancer Awareness Month, it seemed like the perfect timing.
I look forward to future ways to get involved in this fight and speak out with the Colon Cancer Alliance.
You can purchase the Eartha Kitt Debit Card here through Card.com.