Fighting until the end, Candice Brisbane succumbed to cancer early last Saturday morning at Princess Margaret Centre with family members at her bedside.
She was 26 years old.
Diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia 12 years ago while in elementary school, the young mother of two girls – their ages are six years and 21 months – relapsed in October, 2010 after being cancer-free for almost a decade.
This form of cancer leads to damage and death by crowding out normal cells in the bone marrow and infiltrating other organs.
Brisbane was unable to secure a stem cell donor which would have prolonged her life.
Last May, Brisbane’s family teamed up with One Match Stem Cell & Marrow Network (OMSCMN) which is responsible for finding and matching volunteer donors to patients who require stem cell transplants. Less than 30 per cent of patients who need transplants find a compatible donor in their family circle.
Though weak, she made a brief appearance to thank donors and supporters that included former men’s national team basketball player, William Njoku, who the Indiana Pacers selected 41st in the 1994 National Basketball Association (NBA) draft and Toronto Argonauts cornerback/kick returner, Matt Black.
Nearly 35 Black patients are waiting for a stem cell match from an unrelated donor. Of the nearly 340,000 Canadians currently registered with the network, 75 per cent are White. Black people make up 0.7 per cent of all donors.
Reflecting on her daughter’s life, Susan Brisbane said she will remember Candice as a fighter.
“She had many challenges, but she faced them head-on with amazing strength,” said the family matriarch, who migrated from Trinidad & Tobago 43 years ago. “Even as she was taking her last breaths, she found the strength to hum lightly as we played some spiritual songs. I don’t know where she got that strength from. I will miss her.”
Brisbane was diagnosed after leading a healthy life for her first 13 years. At the time of the relapse nearly three years ago, she was enrolled in Seneca College’s law clerk program after graduating from St. Mary Catholic Secondary School in Pickering.
“Candice had a fantastically bright smile that instantly conveyed her loving spirit,” said Vidal Chavannes, who taught Brisbane in high school. “She participated in the Black History Month assemblies every year and she was always interested in learning.”
A viewing will be held on Thursday, August 22, from 7-9 p.m. at McEachnie Funeral Home, 28 Old Kingston Rd., in Ajax.
The funeral takes place on Friday, August 23, at Revivaltime Tabernacle Church, 4340 Dufferin St., starting at 10 a.m.