Megan McNeil: Celebration of Life

Megan McNeil Celebration of Life

A celebration of life was held for Megan McNeil on February 19th, 2011 at the Bell Centre for Performing Arts in Surrey, which over 700 attended. Special thanks to the hosts Sophie Lui and Steve Darling, as well as the wonderful performers Ryan McMahon and Cory Woodward. The event began with guests being shown the original video and performance of Will To Survive given by Megan while receiving her treatments at BCCH. It was then followed by highlights of her life and featured photo videos, and moments shared by family, teachers, friends, hospital staff, and workmates. The afternoon finished with Susan McLennan featuring the Will To Survive campaign highlights and the final version of the WTS video and song that had been produced with the support of many people. This was an event that left guests saying they had never experienced anything like it! Special thanks from her parents Dave and Suzanne McNeil to all who helped organize this memorable afternoon.

As Megan’s time on earth drew to a close, she made some requests of us all. She wanted her work to continue, and for us all to fight for a day when no child died from childhood cancer. As a gesture of remembrance, her parents ask that you:

1. download her song from iTunes or Amazon and

2. share The Will to Survive video with as many as you can to help get her message out.

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made to BCCCPA and/or The James Fund. You may do so by going directly to their sites.

If you would like to honour Megan by providing corporate sponsorship or other support to assist with the costs surrounding The Will to Survive campaign and the Celebration of Life for Megan, please contribute by clicking the link below. Please note, this is not a charitable donation. Anyone requiring additional information is welcome to to email: susan at babbleoncom dot com.


Megan McNeil’s Obituary

Born in Vancouver on September 7, 1990, Megan died at Surrey Memorial of adrenal cancer on January 28, 2011, surrounded by family and friends. She was 20.

Megan is survived by her adoring family, including her parents, Suzanne and David and grandparents Helen McNeil, Carolyn and Ken Reeves, and Jean Peters. She is also survived by her partner, Ryan Kadoranian, and many dear friends who shared adventures with our irrepressible Megan as she crossed as many items off of her “bucket list” as she could, including parachuting, bungee jumping and zip-lining.

Megan captured hearts across North America and even overseas for her tireless campaign promoting childhood cancer awareness. She wrote a beautiful song about the childhood cancer journey called “The Will to Survive” that legendary producer Garth Richardson (Rage Against the Machine, Nickelback) produced.  Emerging star Ryan McMahon arranged the song and provided backup vocals.

Megan and “The Will to Survive” were featured on media outlets across the United States and Canada, with Canada AM naming her campaign one of the best stories of 2010 and CBC’s Connect with Mark Kelley naming her the most inspirational person of the year.

As Megan’s time to depart this earth grew near, she requested that those who love her continue her campaign to end childhood cancer through her song “The Will to Survive.”

As a gesture of remembrance, the family asks anyone wishing to honour Megan to download her song from iTunes and share The Will to Survive video on YouTube with those they treasure. Funds raised by downloads of Megan’s song benefit BCCCPA and The James Fund.

The family wishes to thank the BC Children’s Hospital Oncology division and Surrey Memorial Hospital, Child/Youth Services (CYS), Oncology Clinic for the excellent care Megan received over the course of her four and a half year illness.

There will be a celebration of Megan’s life on February 19. Details will be posted soon on and on Megan’s Facebook page: I Want to Give Children Fighting Cancer the Will to Survive.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to The James Fund and BCCCPA.

Those wishing to help support Megan’s campaign to promote childhood cancer awareness through corporate sponsorship or other contributions and means should please email: susan at babbleoncom dot com.

Megan McNeil, singer, loses battle with childhood cancer

Megan McNeil

Discovered by top producer, Megan McNeil’s “The Will to Survive” captured hearts
across North America and gave hope to many

January 29, 2011 – Vancouver, BC – Megan McNeil, 20, a singer who captured the hearts of North Americans with her song about what it’s like to be a kid battling childhood cancer, has died. She had battled Adrenalcortical Carcinoma since she was 16.

Megan wrote The Will to Survive to lift the spirits of other kids in the chemo ward.  When legendary music producer Garth Richardson (Hedley, Rage Against the Machine) heard it, he knew he had to be the one to produce it, and a campaign to raise awareness to fight childhood cancer was born.

Canada AM selected Megan’s story one of the best of 2010 and CBC’s Connect with Mark Kelley selected it as the most inspirational story of the year. Tens of millions of people throughout Canada and the US learned more about childhood cancer thanks to Megan’s song and media campaign, and news features on her appeared as far away as England and Russia.

Megan is survived by her parents Suzanne and Dave McNeil. No details about a celebration of Megan’s life are currently available but will be made known when they are available.

The family is requesting privacy at this time but they have issued the following statement:

“Our daughter was our hero.  She taught us the meaning of bravery and inspired us every day with her own Will to Survive. She wrote her song as a gift to anyone who needed to be picked up on a very bad day. And when you are a family fighting childhood cancer, there are a lot of very bad days. We are so grateful for the many who have reached out to let us know how much her song meant to them. And we are so glad she was, and is, our daughter.”

Megan was clear in her final hours that she wanted her campaign to go on because, as she said, “Too many kids have died from childhood cancer and it’s got to stop.”

Megan considered it her personal mission to tell the world how terribly underfunded research is into childhood cancer. She also wanted everyone to know that research into adult cancers does not do much to help kids but research into childhood cancers helps everyone, including adults.

Proceeds from “The Will to Survive”  go to childhood cancer organizations, including The James Fund for Neuroblastoma Research, which funds the James Birrell Laboratories at The Hospital for Sick Children and its research into neuroblastoma, one of the deadliest childhood cancers; and BCCCPA. The Will to Survive is for sale on iTunes and also on

BCCCPA, founded in November of 2002, is a registered non-profit charitable society whose mission is to provide financial support to families of a child with cancer and raise awareness for children and youth with cancer and blood disorders. BCCCPA’s Family Financial Aid Program is a prime example of how some of this support and awareness is designed and delivered. Other BCCCPA activities include annual grants to childhood cancer research projects along with advocacy for initiatives and programs that help to enhance the quality of life for children and youth with cancer and blood disorders.

The James Fund was established by the family of James Birrell to generate funds and knowledge leading to new therapies for the treatment of patients with neuroblastoma, one of the most frequent cause of disease-related death in children. James died of the disease in 2001 at the age of 8.  James Fund researchers are recognized globally, and have taken the top neuroblastoma research award in the world. The James Fund and its benefactor, The James Birrell Research Laboratories at The Hospital for Sick Children, are considered by many as the best hope kids battling neuroblastoma have. To date, seventeen research projects have been funded, twenty-five papers published, a drug-testing unit has been established, eight international collaborations are underway, and a new clinical trial is  bringing new hope to the parents of children suffering from this terrible childhood cancer. Hollywood actor Tom Hanks is its Honourary Patron.

There is a Facebook Page called I want to give children fighting cancer The Will to Survive where fans can post their messages to the family. The website is and the video in support of the song is at The song can be purchased on iTunes at and on Amazon at



The Will to Survive

Megan McNeil wants to give kids fighting cancer The Will to Survive

The moment legendary producer Garth Richardson heard Megan McNeil’s The Will to Survive, he was in. McNeil’s lyrics had a wisdom well beyond their years and the chorus was so catchy, he found himself repeatedly humming it over the next few days. He wasn’t looking for a cause, but he’s always on the look out for a good song. In The Will to Survive, he found both.

“It’s one of those songs,” he says, “that’s going to be around for a long time, giving people strength when they need it most. Because while it is a song celebrating kids who are battling cancer, it’s also a kind of anthem for anyone who has ever faced terrible adversity. ”

A Juno winner who was also nominated for a Grammy, Richardson has worked with some of the biggest names in the music industry, including Hedley, Nickelback, Kiss, and Alice Cooper. He has an ear for talent and an ability to nurture emerging musicians. He did, after all, produce the self titled debut album for Rage Against the Machine.

Megan McNeil, now 19, has battled a form of adrenal cancer called Adrenalcortical Carcinoma since she was 16. She wrote The Will to Survive as a way of helping other, often younger children keep their courage up when illness made hope seem distant.

“I thought if only I can even help one other person, then the song will have meant something,” McNeil says, remember how lonely the childhood cancer journey can be. But it has grown to help many, especially those funding childhood cancer research at The James Fund, and BCCCPA, which provides financial support for families battling childhood cancer. Getting the word out on these two not for profit organizations is top of Megan’s list.

The melody came to McNeil one day while sitting in her bedroom. She refused to let herself leave until she had the melody down. After that, the words started coming. She began working on it with the Erin Johnson, the music therapist until she had something she felt was ready to start showing people. Dan Mornar, the family representative at the hospital took it to The Childhood Cancer Foundation whose then CEO David Stones and marketing director Mary Lye  helped to champion the project in its infancy. Richardson was given a copy of the song shortly thereafter.

As he has done for others songs supporting causes, including did like Young Artists for Haiti, Richardson pulled together a crackerjack team of producers, technicians, songwriters, and musicians all dedicated to making The Will to Survive to life the best song it could be. He sourced Indy cult-favourite singer/songwriter Ryan  McMahon to help fine tune the song’s lyrics and orchestration. McMahon also sang back up vocals, as did kids battling cancer.

Including cancer-fighting kids in the actual recording was McNeil’s idea, a way of recognizing the hope they give to each other. “They’re my heroes,” said McNeil, “they are who inspire me in my current fight with cancer.”

Although McNeil had lived cancer free for the previous year, the cancer returned in February 2010, and is in her arm and liver. She has already endured 20 rounds of chemo and there are fewer treatment options available to her. But she has beaten cancer three times previously, and she doesn’t plan on losing this time either.

“It doesn’t matter what your odds are, I believe as long as you have ‘the will to survive’, you can beat it no matter how low your chances may be. Cancer is pretty tough, but I like to think that the mind is 10 times more powerful.”

McNeil is making plans to go to return to school, where she’d like to become  a researcher, specifically looking into childhood cancers. That’s if a singing career doesn’t lure her away…

Meanwhile, McMahon is back in the recording studio making a new album two years after his album “Weeks, Months, Years” took CBC and much of Canada by storm.

And Richardson balances an insanely busy production schedule, which takes him frequently to London and New York, with the mentoring he does through Nimbus School of Recording Arts. Richardson founded Nimbus with Kevin Williams and music icon Bob Ezrin, renowned for his work with Pink Floyd, Lou Reed, Roberta Flack and the recent hit version of K’naan’s “Waving Flag” by Young Artists for Haiti, which debuted at number one on Billboard Magazine’s Canadian Hot 100.

The Will to Survive has a Facebook Page called I want to give children fighting cancer The Will to Survive where fans can get regular updates and the website features the latest news, videos and other information.

A video in support of the song is now available at

The song can be purchased on iTunes at and on Amazon at

A portion of every paid download of The Will to Survive will benefit childhood cancer causes, including The James Fund for Neuroblastoma Research and BCCCPA. September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and Megan is hoping people will consider making a donation to a cause that specifically deals with childhood cancer.

But more than that, McNeil hopes that the song will help put childhood cancer on the radar screen. Research into adult cancers does very little to help fight childhood cancers, but research into childhood cancers helps fight adult cancers too. Childhood cancer is woefully underfunded, and families fighting childhood cancers endure terrible hardships, both emotional and financial.

She hopes The Will to Survive will elevate the cause of childhood cancer and send a message to those battling it that they are not alone.

Here’s to the fight.

Here’s to the fighters.

Here’s to the brave that take this on…



Megan McNeil and her family know how hard the childhood cancer journey can be. And how lonely too. BCCCPA was there for the McNeils, as it has been for so many. And it hopes to be an inspiration to others wherever they live whose worlds have been turned upsidedown by childhood cancer.

BCCCPA was founded in November of 2002 by twelve parents determined to do something to ease the burdens that come with childhood cancer. It was time…these parents felt that their voice be added to the chorus of many others who were speaking on behalf of children and youth with cancer and their families.

The childhood cancer journey is costly.  One parent often has to quit work to look after the ill child, and the emotional and financial stress often costs families their homes, their cars, and even each other. The rate of suicide and alcoholism amongst surviving siblings is very high.  The burden is to great to bear alone. Our goal is to help shoulder some of it.

BCCCPA works closely with pediatricians, oncologists, and others to identify the programs and services that will help a child or youth with cancer or a blood disorder meet the many challenges of diagnosis and treatment. Supporting the areas of patient care, outreach, advocacy and pediatric cancer research are the cornerstones of the BCCCPA mission.

BCCCPA advocates for and helps to fund programs and services that strive to improve the survival rates of pediatric cancers while also enhancing the quality of life for both the pediatric cancer patient and their family.

Childhood cancer doesn’t just affect the child. It affects the whole family and ripples out through whole communities. And yet research into childhood cancers are woefully underfunded, and support for families is woefully inadequate.

We know. Because we’ve been there. And we are determined to walk beside those who will let us.

To help us help families battling childhood cancer in BC, please donate at

The James Fund

The James Fund is on a desperate mission to put itself out of business. It was started by one remarkable little boy, James Birrell, and his family, who were trying to save James’ life.

Sadly, The James Fund was not in time for James, who died in 2001 at the age of eight. But its goal is to be in time for somebody’s child, and every child thereafter, so that no family will know how devastating neuroblastoma used to be.

Since its humble roots around a kitchen table, The James Fund has grown to be recognized as one of the leading funds globally fighting neuroblastoma, one of the deadliest childhood cancers.

Hollywood star Tom Hanks is The Honourary Patron of The James Fund.

Now, this movement fueled by neuroblastoma families themselves, is no longer about saving one little boy; it is about saving every child.

James  believed that one day, scientists would figure out neuroblastoma and prevent it from killing children. Even when he knew it was too late for him, he continued to champion the cause.

“With all this experimenting they’ll figure it out and then all the kids with neuroblastoma will be able to survive,” James said.

The James Fund is working desperately for that day. And it’s not just for someone else’s family. It’s for yours. While research into adult cancers yields very few insights into childhood cancer, research into childhood cancer yields important findings into adult diseases. Chronically underfunded, it is often left to parents to fund some this most important research. Parents, and good people just like you.

To learn more about The James Fund or to make a donation, please visit

Childhood Cancer Awareness

Organizations like The James Fund are working for a day when childhood cancer does not take the terrible toll it currently does. And BCCCPA is helping to lessen the burdens on childhood cancer families. Every year, in North America alone, approximately 12,000 kids are diagnosed with cancer. More than 100,000 children battle the disease at any one time in Canada and the US.

For families, the impact of childhood cancer is devastating. The level of care for a child enduring cancer treatment more often than not requires one parent to stop working. Other siblings often feel neglected, resentful and guilty. Marriages often fail, and far too often,  families lose their homes, their cars, and sometimes, each other. The rate of sibling suicide is much higher than the national average and alcoholism and other addictions comes with the territory.

Sometimes, whole communities are affected. It is not uncommon for friends and schoolmates of children battling cancer to be psychologically impacted. And the potential that is lost from that one life when a child dies from cancer is staggering.

The treatments for childhood cancer are harsh and usually not designed for children, but instead are adult treatments adjusted for smaller bodies. Children who have endured treatments like chemotherapy are more prone to secondary cancers, and even for those who escape secondary cancers, the long term effects of the drugs used can be devastating.

Childhood cancer strikes without warning and, unlike most adult cancers, is not caused by lifestyle choices. In fact, the causes of childhood cancers are not known at this time, meaning research is absolutely critical.

While research into adult cancers like breast and prostate yield no benefit to understanding and solving childhood cancers, research into childhood cancers can yield tremendous insights into the battle against all cancers. And yet, childhood cancer research receives a fraction of the funding that adult cancers do.

Twenty-five years ago, a diagnosis of childhood cancer was more likely a death sentence than not. 80 per cent of children battling childhood cancer died and only 20 per cent lived. But in one generation, those numbers are reversed, and now 80 per cent of children survive.

It’s better. But it’s not enough. We envision a world where every child survives childhood cancer, and lives a long and productive life free of secondary illnesses and terrible side effects.

The song “The Will to Survive” is meant to celebrate kids battling cancer and give them hope to carry on.

A portion of proceeds will also help raise funds to help battle childhood cancer and support families going through it. Charities benefiting from the song include The James Fund, recognized around the world for its battling against neuroblastoma, one of the deadliest childhood cancers and BCCCPA, a parents’ organization that has been extremely helpful to Megan and her family.

Want to help? Please help us spread the word about childhood cancer awareness through Megan McNeil’s beautiful song “The Will to Survive.”

1. Please join the Will to Survive Facebook page where you will get updated regularly on when the song is out on iTunes and what stations will be picking up the song for airplay.

2. If you like the song, please buy it on iTunes and Amazon.

3. Please spread the word to your friends, family, email lists, Facebook and twitter pages, work newsletters, websites, and any other way you can think of. You can share the Will to Survive video right from YouTube.

3. If you hear the song on your local radio station and you like it, please let that station know. Please don’t call stations who aren’t playing it or call stations out of your local listening area. Those stations will penalize the artist and the song.

Thank you for caring about childhood cancer. Together, let’s work for a day when Childhood Cancer Awareness Month is completely unnecessary.