CHICAGO — They may look like just ordinary MLB cleats but by the time Bianca Frustaci gets done with them, they will be All-Star material just like the feet they belong to — White Sox closer Liam Hendriks.
Describing her not-so-accidental encounter with Hendriks, his wife Kristi and representatives from the Andrew Weishar Foundation, Frustaci told WGN News that the meeting, while nerve-wracking, was fulfilling.
“I was at a loss for words that I was able to meet him and talk to him about his journey and things like that,” she said. “It’s a different type of connection to where it’s good to know there are other people who are struggling but also fighting.”
Frustaci is fighting Hodgkin’s lymphoma for a third time. Her original diagnosis was in 2017. Always on the move, either working or volunteering at Valentine Boy’s and Girl’s Club, she wrote it off to fatigue.
“I started to get this really bad migraine in my lifetime and then from there, I would get very nauseous, throwing up and things like that,” she said. “I had a dry cough.”
In January, White sox mound master Hendriks got his own cancer diagnosis, non-Hodgkins lymphoma. When Hendriks and his wife learned of Frustaci’s fight, they teamed up with the Weishar Foundation.
Andrew Weishar died of colorectal cancer in 2012 in his early 20s but based on all the kindness he received, he asked his family to pay it forward. To date, over $2 million has been donated to 350-plus adolescents and young adults to help with basic living expenses, continuing education and more.
Helping out Frustaci was a no-brainer for the foundation, surprising her with a $5,000 grant.
The Hendriks also invited Frustaci and her friends to enjoy a Sox game in a suite this season. In return, Frustaci’s inspired cleats will be worn by Hendriks one game day.
The gesture is something the Bridgeport native says makes her as happy as the Sox’ 2005 World Series win.
“It was great I got to stay home from school, that’s for sure,” she laughed. “I got to stay home from school. I went to the parade with my sisters and my mom and some friends.”
But perhaps the best news of all in this story of trials and tribulations is that Frustaci recently had two stem cell transplants in January. With her support network of her partner and many others behind her, so far, so good.
“As of right now, everything is going accordingly,” Frustaci said. “Medically, it was a match, 100%, which is exactly what we want. My white blood count doubled within a week.”
Through the South Slydah Society, Liam and Kristi have donated $80,000. They remain active in promoting equality for the LGBTQ-plus community and the health and well-being of the animal rescue and placement of pit bulls.
There is no date on when Hendriks plans to wear the cleats, as the situation is to be determined to commiserate with his health.