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College Hockey:
This Week in D-I Women’s Hockey: Feb. 13, 2009

If two years constitutes a tradition, then the ECACHL has inured itself in a fine one with it’s Pink at the Rink program.

The annual initiative, held in consort with the American Cancer Society, will visit ECAC venues at Cornell and Yale during games this weekend. It’s purpose is to raise funds for cancer research, and awareness, too.

Awareness that cancer has a face, and the face has a name.

Mandi Schwartz.

Last year, during the first Pink/Rink foray, Schwartz did her part by wearing a pink Yale jersey, as did the rest of her Bulldog teammates, all of them to be auctioned off.

These days, Schwartz is often found wearing a hospital garb in a treatment center nearly two thousand miles away from New Haven, as she battles Acute Myelogenous Leukemia.

Blood cancer.

Schwartz, a 21 year old senior at Yale, was diagnosed with the disease just last December. It all happened so suddenly.

The first signs hit her on a Thursday, she got checked out on a Friday, and was given the news the following Monday.

“I played a hockey game,” said Schwartz, sounding upbeat while speaking by phone from her home in Wilcox, Sask. “And I wasn’t feeling very good. I was having trouble breathing after shifts. I was really tired, and I could only stay out there for about 15 seconds. We thought maybe I was anemic.”

It turned out to be much more serious than that. The first examination detected it. A second one confirmed it. Understandably, the news knocked her for a loop.

“My tummy kind of dropped,” she said. “I was pretty sad. But she (the doctor) was really nice.”

Schwartz left immediately for Saskatchewan, and started her treatments as soon as she arrived. Treatments consist of 10 straight days of chemotherapy, followed by three weeks more of hospitalization.

It’s a far different routine than what she had been accustomed to, first as an elite player at Notre Dame College in her home province, then as an “iron man” at Yale, with 73 consecutive games played.

Hockey had been a huge part of her life.

“At first,” she said, “it was just hard to sit in my room for a month and not do anything. But I was kind of sick and I slept a lot. So it wasn’t too bad, and I didn’t notice it. Once your blood count gets better, you get more energy, and you want to do more things. And it sucks when you have to stay in there. Once I do get out, I go for walks, and I go skating. It feels good.”

With each round of treatment, Schwartz said she keeps her thoughts on the present, preferring to keep the future right where it is. In the distance.

“I don’t like to look too far into the future,D she said. “I like to focus on today or the next day. And make the most of it.”

As was mentioned up top, the Bulldogs will pay tribute to their ailing teammate during this weekend’s games at Ingalls Rink against RPI and Union. Specially made t-shirts bearing her number “17″ will be on sale there, and are also available by mail for a minimum donation of $15 (US).

Fans interested in making donations of any amount can do so by sending a check payable to “Yale University” c/o

Jennifer O’Neil
Yale Athletics
PO Box 208216
New Haven, CT 06520

Schwartz will be undergoing bone marrow transplants in the near future, and several of her teammates have become marrow donors. Those wishing more info on becoming a blood or marrow donor are encouraged to log on to www.marrow.org.

Lastly, with all the down time Schwartz has on her hands during her month-long hospital stays, cards and letters of support are very much appreciated.
Those can be sent to:

Mandi Schwartz
c/o Allan Blair Cancer Center
4101 Dewdney Ave.
Regina, SK, CANADA S4T 7T1

Cancer indeed has a face. Mandi’s face. One that can carry a big smile on it.


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