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Vicki Gilbert - BA (Hons) Physical Education, 1995

Vicki Gilbert is a lecturer and researcher at Leeds Beckett. During her time studying at the university she was wrongly diagnosed with bone cancer and this experience has shaped her life and research.

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Vicki Gilbert is a lecturer and researcher at Leeds Beckett. During her time studying at the university she was wrongly diagnosed with bone cancer and this experience has shaped her life and research.

Vicki says: “I came to Leeds Beckett in 1991. I loved my time here because physical education was my passion. I was a lacrosse player and got sports personality of the year in the first year for setting up women’s lacrosse here. We lived on campus at that time, the buildings were the halls of residence, and I was able to establish lots of relationships with staff and students, many of those continue to this day.

“Unfortunately, in my second year I was diagnosed with bone cancer in my leg, I had 13 operations over the next three years and chemotherapy. However, I received fantastic support from staff and students at the university.”

Vicki’s treatment left her with hearing loss and damage to her kidneys and culminated in her leg being amputated. Following treatment Vicki received the devastating news that her cancer was actually a harmless cyst.

After leaving Leeds Beckett Vicki pursue a successful business career including setting up baby signing classes which she was highly commended in the business award category at the Yorkshire Women of Achievement Awards in 2011.

Vicki returned to Leeds Beckett in 2015, working in both the Carnegie School of Sport and the Carnegie School of Education where she uses her experience of being a student at the university herself in her day-to-day role.

She says: “I think it gives me a different insight, having been a student in the past. What I got out of my time here, I want to enable my students to have that as well, so I always go the extra mile to enable them to get the best out of their experience here.

“I always feel proud, even when I was being treated for breast cancer in 2017, I still managed to work throughout the year. I had about seven PGCE students that year and I’ll never forget meeting with some of the students and their parents at graduation. I told them I was proud of them and talking to them gave me a sense of pride in what we do here and what we offer.”

Using her own experiences of living with and beyond cancer, Vicki also delivers classes specialising in adapted physical education.

She explains: “It stemmed from having had the cancer treatment myself, and really feeling like I hadn’t had any support or guidance in terms of continuing to exercise and understanding about how important it is to exercise while having treatment.

“I looked into it more and there wasn’t really much available, so I did an extra qualification in cancer rehabilitation physical activity, and I now deliver classes at the Sir Robert Ogden Macmillan Centre in St James’ Hospital and also in the city gym at Leeds Beckett.

“We have also become involved through Public Health England, Active Leeds and Get Set Leeds, in a real mission in the city to enable people to become more active and have their say.

“One of the ideas with the whole package is to enable people with chronic health conditions such as cancer to be able to access physical activity opportunities. The research is really robust in showing that if you exercise while being treated, in recovery or before diagnosis, it can really help prevent cancers, it can help reduce risk of recurring cancers and can help manage symptoms you get while being treated.”

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