Among others at Komen Race, two friends reminisce about battling cancer


Randee VanVleet tried to put it off.

Finally, she realized it was time. She went to the wig shop, bought two blonde wigs and walked into her hair salon.

“You want your hair done?” the hairdresser asked.

“Nope,” VanVleet said. “Buzz it off.”

PHOTOS: 2018 Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure

About 10 years later, sitting with her friend Liisa Spinello near the waterfront on Flagler Drive, VanVleet said she wished she would have buzzed her hair as soon as she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“I see some women, they’re beautiful and they’re bald,” VanVleet said. “But when I looked at myself, I didn’t see beautiful.”

RACE RESULTS: Complete official race times, by age bracket

Spinello looked at VanVleet and arched her eyebrows.

“You were hot,” Spinello said, and the two laughed.

On Saturday morning at the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, just after Stephanie Schappert of Delray Beach and Josh Peterson of Boca Raton finished first in the women’s and men’s 5K races in 17:59:95 and 17:17:52, respectively, VanVleet and Spinello walked onto the stage at the Meyer Amphitheater. The two friends, along with over 100 other breast cancer survivors, stood with pink roses. They hugged. They smiled. They swayed back and forth as Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” played over the loudspeakers, cheered on by a crowd in pink watching from the grass below.

Nancy Brinker, the sister of Susan G. Komen, who died from breast cancer in 1980, took the microphone.

“It is so moving for me to be here every year,” said Brinker, who founded the Komen organization to raise awareness and money to fight breast cancer. “God bless all of you.”

VanVleet and Spinello have been friends ever since they met at a music festival in St. Petersburg in 2008.

About 10 days after first meeting, VanVleet’s doctor told her she had cancer. Whatever you do, wherever you go, her doctor said, don’t be alone. So VanVleet stopped at a local restaurant in Riviera Beach, where some of her friends were at happy hour.

There, VanVleet happened to run into Spinello, and found out she also had battled breast cancer.

The two talked, eventually forming a strong friendship and a tight bond. Spinello took VanVleet to her oncologist, to chemotherapy sessions, to concerts and parties, and they’ve been participating in the Komen race’s 5K team walk together for the last 10 years. And, although they still go for regular checkups, both said they are cancer free.

The two think meeting each other was fate.

“I think we’re both fighters,” Spinello said, “and I think we’re both really strong women.”

On Friday, a day before the race, sitting and talking about the last 10 years, the two thought about what they would tell themselves when they were first diagnosed.

They looked at each other and paused.

“You can do this,” VanVleet said.

“That’s probably exactly what I’d say,” Spinello said. “I can do this.”

Top 10 results:

Women’s 5K:

1. Stephanie Schappert, Delray Beach, 17:59:95

2. Jennifer Sober, Jupiter, 18:56:76

3. Linda Robb, Juno Beach, 20:20:27

4. Jamie Rogers, West Palm Beach, 20:24:63

5. Jennifer Rapaport, North Palm Beach, 20:35:31

6. Fanny Kidwell, Jupiter, 20:47:91

7. Shaina Bonadio, Boynton Beach, 21:15:18

8. Kathryn Mullin, Jupiter, 22:07:09

9. Tam Sissenwein, West Palm Beach, 22:16:94

10. Kristen Lash, Aldie, V.A., 22:27:18

Men’s 5K:

1. Josh Peterson, Boca Raton, 17:17:52

2. Samuel Munera, Jupiter, 17:55:73

3. Joshua Skielnik, West Palm Beach, 18:13:60

4. Jack Lesh, West Palm Beach, 18:21:12

5. Gavin Ross, Jupiter, 18:26:01

6. Joe Patrolia, Boca Raton, 19:09:95

7. Hamed Kian, Jupiter, 19:25:60

8. Jonathan Tolmich, Lake Worth, 19:45:74

9. Stephen Strong, 19:59:73

10. Patrick O’Sullivan, Boynton Beach, 20:04:25



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