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Hockey player Mandi Schwartz dies of leukemia at age 23

Saskatchewan hockey player Mandi Schwartz has lost her battle with leukemia.

The 23-year-old from Wilcox, Sask., died Sunday after two years of fighting the disease, according to the St. Louis Blues.

Schwartz played forward for the Yale Bulldogs and also attended Canadian women's team camps.

Her younger brother Jaden was drafted 14th overall by the Blues last year and played for Canada at this year's world junior championship in Buffalo, N.Y.

"From the entire St. Louis Blues organization, our thoughts and prayers are with the Schwartz family during this difficult time," Blues president John Davidson said in a statement.

Both Jaden and another brother Rylan play hockey for Colorado College in the NCAA.

Schwartz and her family fought hard for her survival. Her father Rick and mother Carol took leave from their jobs with the Saskatchewan Safety Council and Saskatchewan Justice respectively to shepherd their daughter through treatment.

She was engaged to engineering student Kaylem Prefontaine of Rockglen, Sask., and they had planned a wedding for the summer of 2012.

She was first diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in 2008 during her junior year at Yale. AML is an aggressive cancer of the blood and bone marrow.

Chemotherapy sent her into remission and she returned to Yale, but Schwartz suffered a relapse in April, 2009. Schwartz's situation was dire and she desperately needed a stem cell transplant.

Both the Yale and North American hockey communities combined in a massive on-line campaign to find both bone marrow matches and umbilical cord blood from women about to give birth.

The Facebook page "Become Mandi's Hero" has drawn almost 6,500 followers.

A message posted on the page Sunday read: "Thank you for your support. We regret to inform you that Mandi passed this morning at 10:35 PST surrounded by her wonderful family, fiance and friends."

Donors were found, but Schwartz's transplant scheduled for Aug. 26 was delayed when it was discovered the cancer had again returned.

She had more chemotherapy in Seattle before stem cells from two umbilical-cord donors were transplanted Sept. 20 at the University of Washington Medical Center.

Schwartz and her parents remained in Seattle for weeks for follow-up treatment. They hoped the transplant would do its job. Schwartz went home to Wilcox, but in late December tests revealed the devastating news that her cancer had returned.

Schwartz greeted Jaden at the Regina airport Jan. 6 upon his return from the world junior championship in Buffalo. A fractured ankle suffered during the tournament prevented Jaden from playing for Canada in the medal round.

He greeted his sister on crutches and draped his silver medal around her neck.

Her family wrote in a CaringBridge on-line posting that day that bone marrow tests revealed leukemia had aggressively settled in her bones. The treatment they'd hoped to continue in Saskatchewan was not possible.

"We ask for your support in prayers as we treasure our time with her at home," they said.

Schwartz, who was born in Yorkton, played high school hockey at Notre Dame College in Wilcox.

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