Three months ago Justine Laymond was a healthy 32-year-old woman. She had a fiance, Jon, and was happily working as an aerobics teacher. But in April her life took a dramatic and unexpected turn when she was rushed to hospital with a suspected collapsed left lung. Doctors confirmed the initial prognosis and Justine was diagnosed with sporadic lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM) one of the world's rarest diseases.
Although she is still engaged, Justine has moved back in with her parents in Byng Drive, Potters Bar. LAM is not only extremely rare it affects about one person in a million and there are only about 75 women in the UK with the disease it also has no cure. Her survival rests on one thing: a single or double lung transplant.
But Justine has come out fighting, despite being short of breath and in considerable pain much of the time. She has actively sought publicity about herself and her condition, starting up her own web site and even going on television. Though she acknowledges her chances are slender, she fully believes she will beat the disease.
"I don't want it to be all doom and gloom. I want it to be positive, not depressing," she said of this article. "I want it to be an inspiration to people who are ill. I'm aware people can go away and go down a deep hole. I want to give hope, but I also want to raise awareness of LAM.
"I want to win this battle, I want to beat this, I'm so determined. I'm a very bubbly and positive person. I believe and hope I'll be lucky and find a suitable donor it's the one thing that really keeps me going."
Via her web site, she has been emailed by people from as far afield as the US, Mexico and Malaysia, all of whom were touched by her plight and admired her courage.
"When I was in hospital it helped me so much to read the emails they gave me hope," she said. "They keep me strong and make me smile. I'm determined to respond to every message, even if people don't know me. It's just knowing people out there care."
Since the message board on her web site opened on May 16, she has answered nearly 500 messages, in spite of the fact that she has been in and out of hospital and is rigged up to an oxygen tank most of the time.
Justine's family badly needs to raise money to adapt the house to her needs. To donate money or leave a message for Justine, visit her web site at www.justinelaymond.com