A CANCER survivor has said bodybuilding helped her feel more like a woman after a "botched" total mastectomy left her with confidence issues.

Fitness instructor Cath Hayes fell into depression after the loss of her daughter and her diagnosis in 2013.

But the bodybuilder, who describes the on-stage feeling as "incredible", said the sport helped her reconnect with the person she was before falling ill.

Gym addict Cath said first found bodybuilding by watching a competition last year and, days later, booked in with trainer, Charlie Garforth.

She told the Telegraph & Argus: "I follow people on Instagram and Facebook.

"I thought, 'Maybe I could do that and it would do me really good'.

"It was just incredible.

"The more my body changed, the more confident I got to walking out on stage.

"Before I even got on stage my body confidence grew from November onwards

"I feel more feminine which I suppose some people won't understand.

"This is the best I've felt. I feel how I used to be.

"This has given me a new way of life."

Cath now follows a strict protein rich diet and fitness regime - six days at the gym, another focused on cardio and a rest day with a 15,000 step goal.

Eating seven to eight times a day, Cath is banned from alcohol, takeaways and sweet treats.

It's all in preparation for the many poses, including the front double bicep and side mandatory pose.

The Fairweather Green resident said: "Some days you don't want to train but once you get there it's brilliant.

"You make yourself do it.

"You've got to do it.

"We've got to do certain poses, turns.

"You end up doing a 360."

And the regime seems to be working as the 54-year-old brought home the trophy for first place in the open age 'figure athletic' category at the UK Ultimate Physiques (UKUP).

In her first competiton this July, the bodybuilder also came second in Pure Elite's open age 'figure category'.

Cath also took home Pure Elite's third prize in the over 40's 'fitness model' competition.

Cath, who trains up at Thornton Recreation Centre, said: "It's a growing sport for women.

"There's so many different categories, you don't have to do the muscular ones.

"I think the whole community's really supportive, all the women support each other.

"It's about building women up.

"All the girls were saying, 'I'm really nervous' but I'm not.

"I don't know if it's an age thing.

"I've done all this hard work and I'm going to enjoy it."

"I know what it's done for me."

Cath's mental boost has not gone unnoticed with her husband seeing her new found "energy, enthusiasm and eagerness" to get on stage.

Her husband explained: ''After Cath had her mastectomy she suffered from depression & body image issues.

"Since transforming her appearance I have seen the old, happy Cath return with so much energy, enthusiasm and eagerness to compete in the sport of bodybuilding.

"It has had a huge impact on her wellbeing.''