Everyone in the hockey world and beyond has been moved by the courage and faith of Mandi Schwartz.
Today, we learned with sadness of her passing. Her suffering, beyond what most of us can comprehend, is over. She was 23.
Mandi played college hockey at Yale and her brother Jaden was a 2010 first round pick of the St. Louis Blues and a member of the Canadian World Junior team this year.
Mandi suffered from Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), a particularly gruesome and fast acting disease, for which the five year survival rate is between 15 and 70 percent. The disease is characterized by the rapid accumulation of white blood cells in the bone marrow.
Mandi was first diagnosed in December of 2008 while playing at Yale. She went home to Saskatchewan and went through an intensive course of chemotherapy which put her in remission. She returned to Yale in January of 2010, intending to continue her hockey career.
Unfortunately, the disease returned a year ago this month. In September 2010, she underwent a stem cell transplant in Seattle and started to develop a new immune system.
The final blow came when she relapsed two months later.
Mandi's story touched me in a special way. This month marks the 19th anniversary of the passing of my father from Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL), a slower acting but still terrible disease.
The final stages were especially brutal, so I can appreciate the agony Mandi's family endured and the grief that they are beginning to suffer.
In 2006, I was diagnosed with CLL—I took it as a wake up call.
The awful events that I was involved in at the end of the Vietnam war in 1975 led me to make certain promises to God which I had yet to fulfill.
Now, I am working for a local soup kitchen, raising funds for it and working to create a radio program to address health issues among First Nations youth. I am also working on a project to create non-governmental organizations in US high schools to help Developing World communities.
Mandi's illness and the courage with which she faced it have inspired many others in similar directions. A recent post on the Become Mandi's Hero website (http://www.becomemandishero.org/) encourages readers to plant their seed and make the world better.
There are many ways to do this. You can donate and/or raise funds for the NHL's Hockey Fights Cancer ( http://www.nhl.com/ice/page.htm?id=25343) or for the foundation Mandi's friends are creating in her honor.
You can also donate your time to a charitable organization in your neighborhood. Contact your legislators to preserve funding for cancer research. Do it in Mandi's honor.
You will be a better person for it and your community will be a better place for it.