April 3, 2011

Yale's Mandi Schwartz loses battle against cancer

Mandi Schwartz (photo: Yale Sports Publicity)

Yale hockey player Mandi Schwartz, whose two-year battle against cancer served as an inspiration to friends, family and fans across the world, died Sunday at the age of 23.

Schwartz had been battling acute myeloid leukemia since 2008. She received a stem cell transplant in September, but in January had relapsed for the third time in nine months.

“When people get sick, often times we put them on a pedestal,” former Yale coach and current Northeastern assistant coach Hilary Witt (Canton, Mass.) told New England Hockey Journal before the season. “But she’s the real deal.”

Schwartz, a native of Wilcox, Sask., was first diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in 2008, during her junior year at Yale. It is an aggressive cancer of the blood and bone marrow.

Chemotherapy sent her into remission and she returned to school, but Schwartz suffered a relapse in April of 2009, leading to her need for the stem cell transplant.

In a letter to the Yale community in January after her latest relapse, athletic director Tom Beckett cited Schwartz's courage and determination as she continued her battle.

"Mandi is a woman of great courage and determination," he wrote. "Her story has been told far and wide, and she has inspired many. There is no way to quantify the impact that she has had, but we do know this: the two bone marrow donor testing drives that the Yale Athletics Department has held since she was first diagnosed have added more than 1,600 potential donors to the National Marrow Donor Program's 'Be The Match' registry."

Schwartz is survived by her brothers, Jaden and Rylan, who both play at Colorado College; her parents; and her fiance, Kaylem Prefontaine