Survivor brings the joy of music

Mater volunteer Narelle Roberts with Mater Cancer Care patient Bill Diacos. Photo Peter Wallis.

A breast cancer survivor and passionate volunteer is using music to relax and inspire cancer patients undergoing treatment at the Mater Cancer Care Centre.

Narelle Roberts decided to take up the harp during her own fight against cancer and now regularly plays to soothe the spirits of patients receiving chemotherapy at the South Brisbane treatment centre.

Next week (15-21 May) is National Volunteer Week – a chance to shine a spotlight on the 500 volunteers who give their time to support patients across Mater’s Queensland hospitals.

Mrs Roberts volunteers as a patient companion at Mater Cancer Care Centre and the Mater Hospital Brisbane Emergency Department and is known for her positive energy and generosity.

“Music has such an impact on the soul,” Mrs Roberts, from Parkinson, said.

“Being able to bring music to patients undergoing what could be the hardest time of their life is rewarding.”

The 68-year-old was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017 and began volunteering at Mater Hospital Brisbane a year ago.

“I know what it’s like to undergo cancer treatment. Sometimes it can be a very lonely place for people,” Mrs Roberts said.

“When I was diagnosed, doctors found four lumps in my breast. Two were benign, one was stage two and another stage three.

“Having been a patient, and now in remission, I can see the impact cancer has on people.”

Mrs Roberts underwent chemotherapy weekly for three months at Mater and had extensive radiation treatment.

She said giving back to the hospital that saved her life was “something special”.

“I absolutely love it. I understand what people are going through,” Mrs Roberts said.

Mrs Roberts, who also gifts presents to patients undergoing treatment at the Mater Cancer Care Centre each Christmas, said she thought about learning to play an instrument during her own cancer journey.

“I just thought I could help make someone’s day, especially when they walked into the foyer ready for treatment,” she said.

“To be able to do little things for people is very special. This place can sometimes feel quite quiet when you first walk in. I want to play music that brings joy and peace to people and leaves a lasting impact.”

Mater Hospital Senior Manager Judy Johnson said Narelle had already clocked up more than 350 hours of volunteer work and was a compassionate member of the team.

“Narelle radiates positivity and care for people and her actions demonstrate this every shift,” Ms Johnson said.

For more information phone Mater Volunteers on 3163 8599, email or visit

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