A cancer survivor from Blackburn is inspiring other vulnerable women after a health and wellbeing project helped her rebuild her life.
Kerry Cameron was first diagnosed with leukaemia aged 14, and relapsed aged 21, five years after finishing treatment.
The intense chemotherapy and radiotherapy and stem cell transplant surgery left Kerry with severe health issues including heart failure and scarred and shrunken lungs, joint disease, muscle wastage and severe depression and anxiety.
Keen to get fit again but worried her health issues would hold her back, Kerry found about The Billy Project via Facebook.
Based at Unit 2 Fitness for Women in Mill Hill, The Billy Project offers free and discounted gym sessions for disadvantaged and vulnerable women with the aim of building confidence and tackling loneliness.
She said: “I was really apprehensive about joining a gym because of my limited ability but one of the personal trainers designed a special programme for me, gradually building up my strength, stamina and confidence.
“Since then my health has improved dramatically. I’ve been able to stop my medication for anxiety and depression for the first time in 17 years, my heart and lungs are no longer deteriorating and I’ve been able to hold off on an ankle and hip replacements.”
The Billy Project founder Leanne Procter was so impressed with Kerry’s progress that she invited her to volunteer at the project, which in turn led to a job offer.
Leanne said: “I was so inspired by Kerry’s passion and determination that I thought she would be a perfect role model for other women. She continues to go from strength to strength and I am so proud of what she has achieved.”
Now Kerry is a qualified fitness instructor and personal trainer and is using her experience to help other women via The Billy Project on the Road, thanks to funding from Newground Together, part of Together Housing Group.
Building on partnerships with organisations such as Creative Support, Inspire Drug and Alcohol Service, The Wish Centre, Child Action North West and Humraaz Refuge, Billy Project on the Road aims to tackle isolation by breaking down social barriers and offering emotional support.
Leanne and her team deliver sessions out in the community on topics such as nutrition, debt and sexual health to socially excluded women including victims of domestic abuse and those with drug and alcohol addictions.
Belle Paterson, Community Development Officer at Newground, said: “This project aims to build community spirit by taking sessions out to people’s doorsteps. Some women may not be able to access the gym because of travel costs, childcare or fear of the unknown but by taking the sessions out to where people feel most comfortable, from their children’s school to their local refuge centre, we are breaking down barriers.
“We hope that through these sessions, the women the project works with will eventually have the confidence to visit the gym independently and be inspired to become role models in their community.”
Ladies can access The Billy Project at Unit 2, Fitness for Women, Albert Street, Mill Hill, Blackburn, on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays 11am-3pm. You are entitled to one free gym session per week, after that it is just £1 per session. www.facebook.com/thebillyproject/