AN INSPIRATIONAL woman who was back in the gym just weeks after undergoing a full hysterectomy as part of her cancer treatment has her sights set on new titles and breaking records.

Champion powerlifter Vicky Ellis, who turns 40 next year, was dealt a serious blow when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer this time last year.

The Coedpoeth mum of three kept the news from her children and weightlifting coach until after the Christmas and New Year celebrations - describing the news as horrific as she had lost both of her parents to cancer.

In April this year, she underwent the major operation as well as energy-sapping chemotherapy and radio therapy.

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Vicky Ellis

But six weeks later she was back in the gym - with her fellow athletes describing her as a determined fighter who became a real inspiration.

Vicky said: “It was horrific.

“But I am very strong-willed - although some people call me awkward and stubborn.

“It was awful not being able to train - I have been doing this four and a half years and go to the gym five days a week. It was a big part of my life.

“I had my operation in April and six weeks later, against doctors’ orders, I was back in the gym.

Vicky, a mental health nurse who is married to husband Lee, has three children - Chloe, 20, Leon, 15, and nine-year-old Kai.

She said telling Chloe her diagnosis was the hardest as she was in the third year of studying for a law degree in Manchester.

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Vicky with husband Lee and their children

Vicky added: “I knew I had to fight. I lost my father and mother to cancer, so that was in my mind. I had to fight for my children. I kept thinking if the worst happens I would miss out on their lives.”

Her coach Craig Hulme, who runs Valhalla Gym in Rhosrobin where Vicky trains, said he never doubted the person he had seen develop into a champion bodybuilder and powerlifter.

He said: “In October last year I received a message out of the blue from someone telling me that she had been diagnosed with cancer and was going to require chemotherapy and and operation. That someone was Vicky Ellis who I had worked closely over the previous two and a half years, firstly as her personal trainer helping her to go from a skinny eight stone woman to the bodybuilding stage and then as her coach as she won European and world deadlift titles all in her first year of competitive lifting.

“Knowing her as I do that she would fight and beat cancer somehow seemed a sure thing.

“Watching her struggle to continue to train through her chemo, even finally accepting that days off might not be a bad thing, was inspirational. Everyday was a battle, but a battle she was determined to win.

“In April, she had the operation. I actually sat with her in the hospital before she went in and she outlined all the comps she wanted to do later in the year and how much sooner she planed to get back in the gym than the doctors told her she could.

“So finally in May she started back in the gym. It was a slow process building her body at first, but Vicky being Vicky holding her back was the hardest part. But week on week her strength was improving.”

There was one alteration that had to be made to the gym - the installation of an industrial fan to keep Vicky cool as the symptoms of menopause, including hot flushes, began immediately after her hysterectomy operation.

In July Vicky said on social media: “Body weight 55.3kg, benched 15kg over my own body weight - I am completely well chuffed with this considering I’ve only been back training 10 weeks after a full hysterectomy and currently battling the change.”

Unfortunately, the first competition in Vicky’s sights that July came too soon. She then targeted the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) championships in Ireland that October. But unfortunately, her illness gave her another knock back.

Craig added: “Unbelievably by September we were hitting new personal bests. 70kg double on the bench 145kg triples on deads. Squats had been added to plan so that next year she could chase titles in full power. All this at bodyweight 4-5kg below the 58kg she used to lift at.

“Unfortunately chemo and cancer can have a really detrimental effect on your immune system. Two weeks before Ireland she fell ill with shingles. Training became impossible. At one point her weight had dropped to 43kg. We had to pass.”

Vicky was down but by no means out, although know she had dropped from just over nine stone to seven and a half, meaning she would have to compete in a different weight category.

The focus shifted to the recent The Amateur British Powerlifting Union qualifier in Rhyl.

Craig added: “I joked with her there were no records in the 44kg class so if she kept her weight down we could break all the records.

“In the end on Saturday she weighed in at 50.2 kg. She did what she had to do to qualify, but even then she couldn’t resist upping her opener on deadlift by 5kg. That she was even there was achievement enough.”

Vicky says that, although other gym-goers see her as an inspiration, she found support from Craig and all at Valhalla Gym invaluable. She said: “I had a lot of help. Everyone at the gym is like a family. That lot helped me loads!”

Before her cancer battle, Vicky had become the British Bench and Deadlift Champion, and was the European Champion and World Champion in 2018.

In 2020, Vicky will be looking to add to those accolades by targetting the British 56kg title and a clean sweep of the records.

Vicky added: “It is my aim to life three times my own body weight, I’m at 2.5 right now,” - a deadlift of 165kg.

Craig added: “Don’t bet against her!”