Schwartz set to battle for gold while sister fights her own battle
Team Canada forward's sibling recovering from stem cell transplant, which doctors hope will cure the Canadian women's team hopeful
By Jeremy Sandler, Postmedia News
December 23, 2010
Team Canada's Jaden Schwartz (centre) celebrates his goal with teammates Simon Despres (right) and Erik Gudbranson against Switzerland earlier this week. No one needs to tell Schwartz there are more important things in life than hockey. His sister is in a hospital bed battling leukemia.
Photograph by: Aaron Lynett, Postmedia News, Postmedia News
Nobody needs to tell Team Canada forward Jaden Schwartz that Monday night's exhibition game with Switzerland meant little in the grand scheme of things.
Nobody needs to tell Schwartz that, even when tryouts and tune-ups end and gold medals are on the line, hockey still takes a back seat to certain things.
Nobody needs to tell the 18-year-old Wilcox, Sask., native this because, for more than two years, the Schwartz family -- parents Rick and Carol, sons Jaden and Rylan and, most importantly, daughter Mandi -- have been battling an opponent for which there is no game clock nor whistle.
Mandi is in a hospital room in Seattle, 4,000 kilometres and three time zones from Buffalo, where Schwartz will play in the 2011 world junior championship. Mandi Schwartz, 22, is working toward a full recovery from a stem cell transplant doctors performed in September.
Doctors hope it will cure the former Yale University hockey player and Canadian women's team hopeful of the acute myeloid leukemia first diagnosed in 2008.
"It's a day-by-day thing, some days she's feeling OK, some days she's feeling a little bit better," Jaden says of his sister. "She's pretty weak right now. It's 90 days since her transplant, everything kind of has gone as planned. She's had some rough days obviously since then."
Even that mixed review is better than the ones Schwartz could give a few months ago.
Back then, he and his family were still waiting for the results of a campaign for stem cell donors that made Mandi's name familiar throughout the hockey world.
"Mandi's fight has been going on a while, she's fighting hard," says Canadian teammate Brayden Schenn, a native of Saskatoon. "We're just hoping for good things. Jaden's been in pretty good spirits through the whole thing and our team will continue to support him throughout it."
After a comprehensive media campaign spearheaded by her family and aided by Yale, the search found a very good, though not perfect, donor.
It has all come at what should be a wonderful time for the family. Jaden is the leading scorer with Colorado College (brother Rylan is second); he was the 14th pick in the 2010 NHL draft, selected by St. Louis; and now he is about to represent Canada at the world junior tournament.
"There hasn't been a whole lot of jumping up and really happy days with our family," Jaden says. "I think about it all the time.
"This was her dream for me to make this team, she's as proud as anybody anytime I get an achievement or an accomplishment in hockey. Everything I do is for her. She's a hockey player and she can't play hockey right now, so I'm kind of doing everything I can for her right now."
Jaden says he and his family are very thankful for the media attention that rallied donors, not just for Mandi but for many cancer patients.
Another Yale athlete, field hockey player Lexy Adams, is set to donate bone marrow to a patient with a life-threatening illness. Adams signed up to be tested through one of the drives organized in hopes of finding a match for Mandi.
Originally there was hope Mandi could be home in Wilcox in time for the holidays, but a recent setback means she must remain in Seattle, at least until the new year.
The family, though, should be in Buffalo. Mandi is well enough to allow Rick and Carol to make the trip to see Jaden play in the biggest tournament of his career.
"This is a dream come true and she wanted me to make this team more than anybody," Jaden says. "So this Christmas has been pretty good so far."
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