Cal Kitay pulled into the driveway of his Wantagh home on June 8, 2011, got out of his car and had a seizure. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and despite surgery and other treatments, he died three days before his 67th birthday.
His family formed a team in his honor called Cal’s Crusaders. The group raises money for brain tumor research through events such as an Aug. 12 fundraiser at Governor’s Comedy Club in Levittown, with proceeds going to the National Brain Tumor Society.
On Sept. 15, Cal’s Crusaders will participate for the fourth year in the Long Island Brain Tumor Walk at Field 5 of Jones Beach State Park in Wantagh.
Cal, who lived in Wantagh for 40 years, had no symptoms before that first seizure. His wife, Barbara Kitay, called an ambulance, which rushed Cal to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Bethpage, where an MRI showed he had a brain tumor.
St. Joseph’s transferred Cal to Mercy Hospital in Rockville Centre on June 10, 2011, where the tumor was removed on June 13. “Even right after surgery, he was in the recovery room making jokes,” Cal’s daughter Amy Kitay recalled.
Cal was diagnosed with a Grade 4 glioblastoma, which is aggressive, according to Amy. The tumor was on the left side of his brain.
“The left side controls the right side of the body which means that it affected his balance,” Amy said. “It left the right side of his body weaker.”
Cal stayed in Mercy’s rehabilitation unit until the end of June, when he started treatments, Amy said. He took chemotherapy pills and did hyperbaric radiation at Winthrop University Hospital (now NYU Winthrop) until Aug. 24. Doctors discovered that Cal was allergic to the chemo drug during the next round of medication, and had to suspend the treatment.
“They only have one or two drugs that they use for these kinds of tumors . . .,” Amy said. “Even though they tried all different ways between pills and allergists in the hospital . . . his body would just not accept the chemo, and eventually they had to stop treatments . . . and everything came back.”
“It was very scary and upsetting,” she said.
Soon Cal could not make a quick trip to the store by himself or get up the stairs without a walker. “The minute this happened in June, his life changed,” Amy said, adding that her father had loved animals — they always followed him around. He also enjoyed building model ships and planes.
Cal died on July 21, 2012. Two years later, the family received a letter saying the National Brain Tumor Society was expanding its annual New York City walk to include one on Long Island. The Kitay ladies attended the Long Island walk in July and decided to create a team in honor of Cal.
To raise money for the team, go to www.braintumor.org/ and click on Cal’s Crusaders.