27/06/2016 09:53 BST | Updated 28/06/2017 06:12 BST

I Beat Cancer and Tonight the Music Starts

Well, here I am. Backstage at the PizzaExpress Jazz Club in Soho, ready for my comeback gig.

I can't say this journey has been easy. Getting back on stage at the age of 72 is hard enough. But coming back from beating cancer of the oesophagus has made it almost impossible at times.

Having the cancer zapped from me has zapped other parts of me too, physically and mentally.

An earlier younger version of me would take in my stride all the ups and downs of getting six individual musicians together for the gig and having just two days to rehearse.

My drummer Paul was Nina Simone's drummer for 19 years and has also worked with Paul McCartney and Van Morrison. My bass player also plays with Jamie Cullum, while my sax player performs with Jools Holland.

They all have other commitments, so having to juggle their times to coincide with the rehearsal studio's free time has been a scary ride.

Then there is the music of Pat Metheny - the great American guitarist whose compositions I wrote lyrics to for my album Back2Front and will be performing tonight. Wow, they are complex in their structures and rhythms - and my vocals have to fit in there somewhere. Just thinking about it makes the eyes water. What a challenge.

This last week, preparing for the gig, has seen me plunge the depths and rise again like an ageing Phoenix - jumping with joy (yes, I can still jump).

Now it's time for the music to start. This music I have waited so long to put into the world. This music, which sat by my side when I was encased in the darkest of all tunnels with no breathe of fresh air kept me hoping, finding a courage and resilience I never thought I possessed. This music which helped me through those endless, relentless months of treatment.

To perform again at this point in my life is a miracle, to walk onto the stage singing the music of my heart is a blessing and to work with these musicians is a gift.

Without the cancer, would I have appreciated all of this? Probably not.

Maybe there is a gift cancer can bring. It allowed me to reach out and grab life and

what it can bring, to make things happen and to appreciate everything - both small and large.

As Charles Baudelaire said of getting older you must run on with "even greater daring right up to the very edge of the grave."

I drink to that... but only after the gig!

- For details of Pepi Lemer's album and future gigs, please visit