‘When they told me I had cancer, it was really painful – like my whole world shattered because first of all I am young; I am 29 years old.

‘I was diagnosed with Stage IV Colo-rectal Cancer. I had no idea; no idea at all. Because of my baby that’s when they figured out that I had cancer because it was really painful like I wanted to die – it was too much pain.

‘I heard the news (about my cancer) on September 12th. And then two days after she was born at just 32 weeks. They decided to take out the baby to see the real diagnosis of my sickness. When she was born, I felt really, really happy because my baby is healthy after all the antibiotics and medication.

‘I came to Sydney in April 2017 from the Philippines. I had like a training program in culinary – to be a chef. It’s like an internship. And then I got pregnant with my baby.

‘I am alone here in Sydney. My husband is here but I don’t have relatives here. My husband tries to visit every day but it depends on his schedule because he’s a pastry chef.

‘I like it here at Lifehouse. They really focus on you and give the best care that you can receive. They promised me that I will have free treatment here because we don’t have money and my husband is the only one who is working and it’s not enough. So in the Philippines it’s really expensive. Every session you go. I don’t know how much but it’s really expensive.

‘I just want my baby to grow strong. You know, like a really tough girl. Here at Lifehouse, it’s like giving me hope. The staff are really nice and kind to me. Hope is really important. It’s the only word I’ve been holding on to.

‘Sometimes I’m really losing hope. Every time I see my baby and my husband, it builds my hope again and again. So I’m thankful that they let them stay here – my baby and my husband.’

‘One of the most challenging times in my life was when my mum died when I was 23 – it was a really devastating thing – particularly at that age.

‘I write most of my work from personal experience. My new album (“Eternal Return”) was written at a time when I was falling in love so I was trying to capture the joy and the openness of that.

‘Both the difficulties I’ve gone through as well as the highs in my life have inspired what I’ve done.

‘The most important thing I think for a musician is to listen to their own instincts because there are a lot of people who have opinions about what you should do and how you should do things. I’ve always found when I’ve followed my own gut; it’s always worked out well for me. That’s all you can really do.

‘There have been only a few times where I’ve gone against my gut instinct but luckily only with minor things. It’s always kept confirming to me that no one knows what’s best for you, more than you do.’

‘I play the Oud. It’s a Middle Eastern lute. There’s a new album out on ABC called “Permission to Evaporate” which is a recent one I did in New York with two great jazz players. One is Mike Stern who was in Miles Davis’ band and Christian McBride – the biggest double bass player at the moment on the jazz scene in the world actually. So I was very lucky to get the chance to record with them.’

If you could describe the Oud as a human, how would you describe it?

‘It’s pretty much like me – short necked, half pear shaped. It’s perfect. I’m exactly like the instrument!

‘I’m playing next Thursday (26th) at Camelot Lounge Marrickville in a repertoire called Angel. We only play that repertoire twice a year to commemorate my parents’ passing. It’s nice to commemorate them through music. This one is to commemorate my mother’s passing two years ago.

‘She was quite sick towards the end. I think there were quite beautiful moments within the short space of time you spend with them in the end. It doesn’t get easy not having your parents around. I think it really gives you fuel for your music. It helps you as a human being and helps you grow. We’re constantly healing and that’s the beautiful thing about music. I guess you’ve just got to take these things as a lesson and grow from them.’

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rhp-IpRPxIs