In remission again, Schwartz ’11 awaits transplant

Yale women’s hockey forward Mandi Schwartz ’11 is again one step closer to recovery.

Mandi Schwartz ’11 skates on the ice last winter, while her leukemia was in remission.
Mandi Schwartz ’11 skates on the ice last winter, while her leukemia was in remission.

Originally scheduled to receive a potentially life-saving stem cell transplant on Aug. 27, Schwartz, who has battled leukemia since December 2008, learned earlier this month that her cancer had returned for a third time — postponing the procedure and requiring her to undergo more chemotherapy. But Schwartz and her family learned Tuesday that she is in “almost complete remission” based on the results of a biopsy, said Dean Forbes, a spokesman for the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, a division of the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance where Schwartz will have her transplant. Forbes said the date for the transplant has not yet been set.

“We are relieved to hear that Mandi is back in remission,” the hockey player’s father, Rick Schwartz, told Yale Athletics. “The support we have received during this difficult time has been inspiring. We thank everyone who has kept Mandi in their thoughts and prayers, and encourage everyone to continue raising awareness of the need for bone marrow donors and umbilical cord blood donors to save the lives of all patients who need transplants like the one Mandi will receive.”

Schwartz has struggled with acute myeloid leukemia since she was first diagnosed 20 months ago. She has spent the time in and out of hospitals; the recent biopsy results mark her third time in remission.

Jackee Snikeris ’11, a women’s hockey goaltender and a teammate of Schwartz’s, said she and the rest of the hockey squad was relieved to hear Schwartz had entered remission again.

“When we heard her date [for the transplant] was Aug.27, we were all ecstatic. But then a couple of weeks ago we heard her cancer was back, and we were all really shocked and it was another obstacle for her,” Snikeris said. “We were all really happy that she got through it, and our prayers are definitely going to be with her in these next few weeks.”

Even since completing her latest round of chemotherapy, it has not been smooth sailing for Schwartz. She was discharged from the University of Washington Medical Center on Aug. 19but needed to return to the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance on Aug. 25, when she developed a high fever. The hospital is currently continuing to care for and monitor Schwartz.

While the return to remission positions Schwartz closer to recovery, the Saskatchewan, Canada, native still needs a stem cell transplant to survive. Two cord blood matches were located for Schwartz in early August after extensive searching. Her two cord blood matches are imperfect but still suitable for the transplant, Forbes said. The sources of the cord blood donations are kept confidential.

Snikeris said the prospect of the transplant seemed to keep Schwartz going during her most recent round of chemotherapy, adding that Schwartz maintains a positive outlook despite the obstacles.

“Mandi just has this determination to get through it and this positivity that exceeds everything else and allows us to be confident in her,” Snikeris said. “We just know that she is going to do it.”

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