Syd & Pamela Birrell

A wise individual once defined life as what happens to you while you’re making other plans. Rarely has that observation hit home with more devastating clarity than in the lives of Syd, and Pamela Birrell.

A life in music and raising a family seemed to have been the original plan. Pamela found acclaim as a gifted coloratura soprano and shared her love for music through teaching. Syd became well-known as organist at Lakefield College, and Murray Street Baptist Church. He’s also a founder of the nationally-renowned Peterborough Singers.

Then life changed the plan.

In 1996, Pamela was diagnosed with breast cancer and, while recovering from chemotherapy, their son James was diagnosed with neuroblastoma.

Syd and Pamela’s lives changed forever. They became unceasing advocates on behalf of neuroblastoma research and how a family can retain a sense of humanity while going through the struggle of terminal cancer.

James, sadly, died in 2001. However, thanks to the Birrell family, his story spread around the world, inspiring thousands. James’ short life shines like a bright star in the often dark sky of cancer. Today the James Birrell Neuroblastoma Research Fund is a world leader in cancer research.

Perhaps when the final plan is written, the greatest accomplishment will be how Syd and Pamela, Ben and Rebecca can go through hell, and emerge with their humanity intact.

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