WHEN she was diagnosed with a rare illness, a Hereford woman decided it wouldn’t get the better of her and turned her attention to spreading as much awareness as possible.

Layla Chester, who is 35 and from Whitecross, discovered she was suffering with fibromyalgia last summer.

The cause of the illness is unknown but is thought to be brought on by stress and can be genetic.

Symptoms include chronic widespread pain, fatigue, heightened pain in response to pressure and “fibro fog” – memory loss.

She said: “Being diagnosed was almost like a weight off my shoulders as I had found out why I was walking with a limp and waking up like I had been to the gym for five hours working out.

“Alternatively it was the news that would change my life forever.”

Layla started a support group on Facebook in January this year to try to speak to people who were suffering daily like her.

Six months later, the group now has almost 100 members and they meet every Wednesday at 10am at the Heart of Oak pub in Hereford.

“I was amazed how many people were in the same boat as me.

I really didn’t have an expectation when I started the group up as this was something I had never heard of until I was diagnosed,”

she said.

“This illness may be something people have to live with but thanks to the support group, people no longer feel it is what defines them.

“We all offer support and advice and in a year from now I hope we can help people twice over to what we are helping now,” she said.