Schwartz's excitement tempered by sister's illness
But the excitement of being selected among the top 30 players will likely be tempered a bit knowing there are more pressing issues going on in his life. Jaden's 22-year-old sister, Mandi, is suffering from acute myeloid leukemia and doctors have informed the family that she has until September to find a stem cell donor.
"It's a very busy time for me and my family," Schwartz said. "We're not even quite sure who's going to be at the draft -- whether my parents are going to come. I know I'm going for sure, but the word is out with Mandi and there's been a lot of interviews going on trying to get the word out with regard to the transplant.
"For me, I'm involved in exams right now (at Notre Dame Prep in Saskatchewan), so I'm trying to do good on those, trying to help Mandi and then deal with the draft. But it's been tough this week with everything going on. I'm really looking forward to heading to Los Angeles next week, for sure."
What makes this whole ordeal all the more disturbing is the fact Mandi might have been in the best shape of the three Schwartz siblings -- including Jaden and brother Rylan, who just concluded his freshman year at Colorado College. She began playing hockey when she was 6 and was captain of the women's team at Athol Murray College of Notre Dame in Wilcox, Sask., before attending Yale University.
Mandi was first diagnosed with the blood cancer that has been destroying her bone marrow in December 2008, just days after helping the Yale women's hockey team to a 4-1 win over Brown.
"I just felt really weird and I didn't know what it was -- just infection and illnesses all the time," Mandi Schwartz told the Yale Daily News. "Toward the end, my body got really sore, and I thought it was just from working out."
After the diagnosis, she returned home to Wilcox and underwent multiple rounds of chemotherapy and was in remission by the spring of 2009. She returned to Yale in January 2010, to complete her junior year -- but less than four months later, tests revealed the cancer had returned. She was back home in April and immediately resumed chemotherapy while Dr. Tedd Collins, a New Haven-based clinical immunologist who specializes in finding donors for patients whose heritage makes it difficult to find matches, began pounding the pavement to locate donors.
On June 9, she learned her cancer was in remission again, but now the search for a stem-cell donor has become of even greater importance. It won't be easy -- more than 1,600 people were tested at bone-marrow drives at Yale the past two springs, but no one was a match for Mandi. The search has intensified to the point that the "Become Mandi's Hero" campaign has become a world-wide effort. In about three weeks, Mandi will be flown to Seattle to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center to receive the stem cell transplant once a donor is found.
"We're still looking for that perfect match," Jaden told NHL.com. "It's hard to find that 10-out-of-10 match but we're doing a lot of work to find it. Mandi's spirits were a little bit down when she had to undergo chemo a second time, but she's doing good. Donors of German, Russian or Ukrainian decent would probably be the best matches for her. She's a positive and dedicated person and she's going to do that all the way through."
Much like she did when Jaden first laced on a pair of skates at the age of 2.
"Mandi and Rylan were already playing and I wanted to join them, and she was definitely a part of me playing hockey," Jaden said. "We've kind of always played together every summer on the ponds or on the rink. She's such a hard worker, just like she is in anything in life. She's dedicated and wants to be the best she can. She can play scrimmages with the guys, so she was right there with all of us."
"It's unbelievable what Yale University has done, and the town of Wilcox," Jaden said. "Family, friends and so many fund-raisers are going on everywhere and different news sites and papers have gotten the word about Mandi. It makes things a lot easier that word is getting out on its own, and the hockey world is a big reason for that. We appreciate what Yale has done; it means more to us than anyone can imagine."
For information on how to become a stem cell donor or for more information on Mandi Schwartz, please visit http://www.becomemyhero.org/mandi_schwartz/mandi_card.html, www.onematch.com or www.becomemandishero.net.
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com