The headaches were becoming more severe, his school grades were rapidly deteriorating, he could barely walk properly and he had to stop playing sports.
In January 2008, Brandon Chandler was diagnosed with a brain tumour in the back of his head.
“I was more relieved than shocked when I found out what was wrong because my life had been going downhill,” he said.
Three surgeries in three weeks and 17 months of chemotherapy later, the University of Waterloo student is positive and optimistic, even though his medical condition remains a cause for concern.
“I have difficulty sometimes concentrating for lengthy periods and coping with a heavy workload in school,” said Chandler, who meets regularly with his neurosurgeon and undergoes frequent Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) tests. “But when I look at how far I have come and the fact there are many people out there who are far worse off than me, I know there is nothing that I can’t overcome.
“When I was a 15-year-old at Sick Kids rehabilitating, I saw kids with cancer and other serious illnesses and they had smiles on their faces, so who am I to say that I can’t make it or I need a crutch in life. My father told me a quote that went something like this: ‘The other day, he started crying because he had no shoes and then he saw a man that had no feet and he asked himself why am I crying?’ I like to remind myself of that when things get tough. Everyone has days when they don’t feel well, but it always gets better.”
Chandler was presented with a Keith Forde scholarship at the Barbados Associations in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) celebration last Saturday night to mark Barbados’ 46th independence anniversary. The country severed its ties from Britain on November 30, 1966.
As a young child, the determined youth was introduced to the now retired Toronto Police Service deputy chief when they both attended the Church of the Nativity in Scarborough.
“Forde has certainly inspired me,” said Chandler, who attended Leaside High School. “I remember referring to him at times by one rank only to be told that he was promoted again. So I decided I was just going to call him uncle. He has accomplished so much in his life and is a role model for me and so many other young people.”
As a 2007 Youth in Policing Initiative (YIPI) participant, Chandler was assigned to the Crime Stoppers office. He returned to the office to volunteer in the fall of that year so that he could complete a school project on an international organization. He chose Crime Stoppers International.
Named the 2008 Crime Stoppers Student of the Year Award winner, Chandler is enrolled in the University of Waterloo’s speech communications program. It is Canada’s only honours program in the theories and practices of human communication that allows students to discover how communication creates meaning by encouraging creative, collaborative and critical engagement.
Chandler, 20, aspires to be a sports marketing events specialist.
Bria Mayers was also presented with a Keith Forde bursary while Janet Williams and Ryerson University student, Shayna Asgill, were awarded the Foundation School and Gordon Bynoe Memorial scholarships, respectively.
Bynoe was a president of the National Council of Barbadian Associations in Canada and a founding member of Barbados House Inc.
With the assistance of ex-Consul General, Dr. Leroy McClean, about 15 Barbadian organizations in the GTA collaborated for the first time last year to organize a gala to celebrate Barbados’ independence.
Former Black Business and Professional Association president and 2012 Harry Jerome Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Hugh Graham, was presented with the Barbados Independence Community Award.
“His contributions to Barbados and the wider community here have been enormous,” said acting Consul General, Ferdinand Gill, who made the presentation. “He often goes above and beyond the call of duty.”
A career banker who rose to the position of senior manager at Royal Bank before retiring seven years ago, Graham is a past chair of the Caribana advisory board, the Toronto Police Service Black Community Advisory Committee and a former Children’s Wish Foundation director and Harry Jerome Scholarship Fund trustee.
He’s currently the vice-president of the Barbados Charity Ball Inc.