Beyond Pink: Meet CaraKit Founder Kellie Whitton, Launching Simple Acts of Kindness For Cancer Patients
Kellie Whitton always believed a simple act of kindness goes a long way. She acknowledged this wholeheartedly and thought it was a great way to live, honestly not giving it too much serious thought until one day in 2020 when everything in her world changed.
When she was diagnosed with breast cancer, her career and starting a new venture was the last thing on her mind. Little did she know at the time that was precisely what she needed for her own healing journey and the emotional recovery of thousands of women worldwide.
After decades as an international film marketing executive, Kellie was 43 years old at diagnosis and approaching a life shift many have encountered and no one could have predicted. What it taught her is that life is uncanny in the way it knocks you off your feet and tests your resilience–all in the middle of a global pandemic.
A Business Born From Need
Kellie was succeeding on the fast track, juggling her roles as wife, mom, and businesswoman with tenacity and vigor. Then she hit the brakes when cancer reared its ugly head. Emotions overwhelmed her as she was thrust into battling chemotherapy, three surgeries, and weeks of radiation–in a pandemic with two boys under 5 years old. It’s an understatement to say this was the hardest time of her life. She wasn’t alone and knew there had to be a way to take this experience and help others. From devastating news, a much-needed source of comfort was born – CaraKit, providing self-care essentials, emotional comfort, and support for women patients undergoing challenging medical treatments.
“At the time, I knew the business world. What I didn’t know was how to deal with a cancer diagnosis and treatment,” Kellie says. “The incredible support I received from loved ones was something I wanted to bottle up and share with others. I was a successful entrepreneur, I’d traveled the world handling movie premieres, juggling tight schedules, and managing crisis situations when they arose. Surely, I could use the skills it takes to accomplish these tasks to help my fellow cancer patients. I knew what it was like to be that scared and rocked to my core. And I knew the same thing was happening to other women every single day. I had to help.”
When her treatment began, Kellie found her greatest comfort in talking to women who had been through treatment. “They weren’t afraid of me,” Kellie said. “And they weren’t afraid of all of these new concepts and words I was hearing for the first time and didn’t understand–my cancer’s pathology, treatment protocols, clean margins, chemo medication cocktails, ports, cold caps–it was a new and frightening foreign language and believe me when I say that with a cancer diagnosis, Google is not your friend. Everything is frightening when you search. So I had to figure out things the old-fashioned way. I asked other women who had gone through it. And they saved me, giving me the resolve I needed to power through what was happening.”
But finding the right way to help wasn’t easy, especially in a world of pink ribbons and celebrity Stand Up To Cancer events. These are all powerful organizations that were and are doing incredible work. But Kellie didn’t connect with any of this when she was diagnosed and thought other women may be feeling the same way. “Those who know me can attest to the fact that I was never a ‘pink’ kind of girly girl. The last thing I wanted was all of the pink ribbon items to be dropped off by well-meaning family and friends. I couldn’t see beyond the pink at the time. It had no greater meaning for me. It just represented cancer, this word I hated and had only recently been attached to my name. It was devastating and I felt bad about not being able to embrace the ribbon and these women who were so outwardly bold toward cancer. I just wasn’t.”
So Kellie imagined other women may be feeling the same way. “All I wanted during treatment was comfort. I wanted things that were beautiful, soft, and useful. Of course, I loved flowers and food baskets–but during chemo, I wasn’t able to eat and the flowers would always die. I would sit and look at these things that used to bring me so much joy and now they represented the sadness of treatment. All while I was on Amazon spending money on what other women who’d been through it, my doctors and nurses and the women from the chair next to me in the infusion center were telling me would actually help, what made them feel better.”
So Kellie started asking every woman she could find–the ones who had gone through radiation, chemotherapy, and other treatments–what helped them weather the harsh days. What helped their mind, body, and spirit cope with what was happening? She used this advice and developed a sense of what worked for her, and that’s how CaraKit grew. With the idea of compiling and repurposing this newfound knowledge from numerous women, collaborators, and medical professionals, Kellie compiled list after list of essential items for at-home comfort and assembled the best ones into curated gift boxes of items–printed with beautiful colors, words of inspiration and instruction cards with advice on how and why to use every item inside.
Comfort Delivered to Your Doorstep
People always asked Kellie what they could do to help while she was in treatment. She really didn’t know what to tell them. But then some really special people came to her rescue. They showed up, day after day, month after month, and helped. They never asked, they just did. All she knew initially was that the superheroes in films that she helped promote (The Matrix and Wonder Woman, among others) had nothing on these real-life superheroes. Kellie was inspired by this work, and with the help of fellow survivors and cancer caregivers, she made CaraKit a resource not just for the women in treatment but those helping them as well.
CaraKit drives Kellie to use her personal experience to help other cancer survivors feel seen, acknowledging their journeys as they undergo treatment. “The last thing someone battling cancer needs is to become your grief counselor, ” said Kellie. “Of course, it is hard for everyone whose family or friend is dealing with a diagnosis. But this is the time to show up, help, support, and be encouraging. Focus on what they need–whether it’s take-out, taking care of their kids, running errands, getting their oil changed, dropping them at an appointment–or just a hug. That’s what we’re hoping to do at CaraKit–focus on the things women really need for comfort outside of the doctor’s office. Doctors are doing their important work–this is in no way replacing that. It’s the ‘extra’ at-home comforts that just make you feel good day-in-day-out in treatment.”
Each of CaraKit’s primary gift kits source of thoughtfully-curated kits that address newly diagnosed cancer patient’s needs–from the more obvious like comfy PJs for resting, a water bottle and hydration drops to keep up their electrolytes, or lotions and creams that are dye and fragrance-free to the less obvious like books with words of encouragement, essential oils to help combat the smell of medical offices or to promote a good night’s sleep, or a healing heart stone to use as a reminder of those who love them. Packages filled with useful, unique, and treatment-safe products bring a bit of light, luxury, and comfort at just the right moment.
Kellie adds, “Countless hours reflecting on my experiences gave me the strength to uplift others and move forward in a time of healing and education. And there is so much to learn. Women who had been through treatment were my lifeline. They knew the reality of treatment the rest of us did not. Soon, I knew these truths as well and wanted to share this hard-earned guidance with others. Every day I’m touched by the stories of how our products have helped women. But even more than that, so many of these women say they finally felt seen and heard when they received a CaraKit, and that’s the best compliment we can ever get.”
Simple acts of kindness gave Kellie hope throughout her journey that she now has the pleasure of doing that exact thing for others. The response has been overwhelmingly positive and a source of light in a challenging and emotional time in many women’s lives.
The Journey and Community Continues
Approximately 39.5% of women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes and many of us know at least one person who has been affected.
Sharing a common experience, even as difficult as cancer, brings women together. CaraKit’s community comprises patients, survivors, caregivers, and loved ones who all strive to help each other. The majority of products curated are from woman-owned businesses, are organic, and considered ideal for women in treatment as they are free from harsh chemicals, dyes, and strong fragrances.
CaraKit also donates a considerable percentage of profits to charitable causes and continually works to help every woman who reaches out, even those who say they can’t afford a kit or don’t have anyone to help them. The team comes up with meaningful ways to take the CaraKit concept a step further.
“It’s common to have mentors in the business world,” Kellie says. “I thought, why should cancer warriors be any different? Couldn’t a source of support outside the typical offerings be beneficial? Can’t everyone use a compassionate ear to talk through their struggles?”
With Breast Cancer Awareness around the corner, Kellie has kicked off a CaraCalls campaign to be the listening ear for women who have been newly diagnosed. They can schedule a time in October to speak with her or CaraKit’s “Helper at Heart” Priscilla Traylor and discuss anything that’s on their minds. Kellie and Priscilla, who was there for Kellie every day during her treatment, have been there and know first-hand that sometimes just listening can be healing. It’s a way of paying it forward by offering advice, experience, empathy, and compassion to someone dealing with cancer.
“Today, I’ve learned to love the ribbon,” Kellie explains. “It’s come to symbolize the complexity of this journey–led by love and hope. I’ll keep fighting for both the steadfast cancer warriors and especially those newly diagnosed, every day. We have to help each other, we’re all we have.”
When Kellie Whitton was diagnosed with cancer in 2020, she went from working as a film marketing executive to battling chemo, three surgeries, and weeks of radiation. Now, with CaraKit, Kellie has committed herself to help other women going through the same thing by providing an extra bit of light, luxury, and comfort.