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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Mandi, we hardly knew Ye....

I know this is who read me posts regularly know that I'm, uh, behind in a lot of my articles.  But this one had to be done, and done when I had the time to do it well.  So, comme toujours, I ask you to bear with me while I get the words out.  I find myself once again in a very unpleasant time in my life so I'm in need of some inspiration, an example of how to keep going in trying times.  I didn't have to look very far.

As everyone in the hockey world has known for about two weeks now, Yale University's Mandi Schwartz was taken from us by leukemia.  But not unlike just about everyone who has ever laced up the skates, she put up one hell of a fight before she left.

The concept of a fight is simple--even if you know you can't win, the idea is to give at least as good as you get.  Mandi did that--and more.  She bested leukemia once in 2008-09 and I'm sure only the limits of the human body prevented from besting it again. 

Her story prompted the now-famous worldwide search for a bone marrow donor.  They came close to finding a perfect match, but it never happened.  The decision was made to try a stem-cell transplant, which seemed to work.  But as we all know, nothing in life is a guarantee and the cancer that was in remission returned to drop the gloves again.

To me, as it was to everyone close to her, it was her fighting the good fight that mattered more than anything.  Here's what she said shortly after she put cancer in remission:

“I knew I could fight through it, and everyone around me was telling me that I could do it, so I didn’t really have a choice to think otherwise.”

If only we could all live our lives like not even see the bad.  To mentally block out the despair and just forge a way through.   From all accounts, that's pretty much how she played the game on the ice as well.
THIS is why she is an example not just to female athletes and those with cancer, but to anyone facing adversity.  Not saying it was easy for her to be sure, but she had the stuff to endure it--mentally and spiritually.

I'd like to focus a bit on what Mandi did on the ice.  I have to admit this wasn't exactly something I had a whole lot of knowledge about before I wrote this, but as much as she gave off the ice, she was pretty good on it as well.  She was listed as a forward.  How many people know that, as a Sophomore, she once had three assists in one game?  I didn't.  That's all I ever needed to know to get an idea of her ability and demeanor on the ice, but if you want to know more, check out her profile, especially the last line.

I have to mention something else...her story is reminiscent of another very special person in the hockey world--Roger Neilson.  Roger's example lives on as does Mandi's because they matched each other in their selflessness and devotion to the game.

I mentioned their selflessness and devotion--Roger Neilson left behind Roger's House.  Mandi Schwartz has Mandi's Heroes.  Both are dedicated to making the world better for those who are suffering.  Can't get any nobler than that.  Please visit Mandi's site here.

I can't help but wonder what heaven is like with her up there playing and him coaching...that would be awesome to watch.

It seems strange to draw strength from the story of someone's life and death, but if it's one thing I've learned (and relearned so many times) it's that sometimes you have to use whatever you can to get through.  Others have Mandi is another great example of how a life, however brief, can shine brightly.  Thank you for providing a light in a time of darkness.  You will never be forgotten.

This is my favorite picture of Mandi.

I'd like to acknowledge many others who have told her story, and their own much better than I have here.  You can read the articles at the links below:

Thanks to all those who read...may you all find a way out of whatever darkness you're enduring.


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