JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - When Candace Estell was 24, she started noticing medical problems, but she never knew what was wrong.
The Middleburg High School grad went to doctor after doctor all over the state with few answers. Eventually, she found a doctor at Duke University who discovered she has Lymphangioleiomyomatosis, or LAM.
It's hard to say, even harder to live with.
The disease exclusively hits women in their child-bearing years. And the LAM is why Estell needs two new lungs.
Estell, now 28, is at Duke in North Carolina with her husband, who remains by her side.
"My husband's here because he's working remotely, and I have grandma here as well, family members and friends, even sorority sisters as well," Estell said in a phone interview.
Right now she's waiting for the double lung transplant, and Jacksonville is coming to help her, setting up a Facebook page called A Breath of Hope for Candace.
Estell has the operation covered financially, but not the thousands of dollars she needs for regular care after the transplant. And she still needs help finding long-term funding. Because of those things, friends set up a website for donations.
"My spirits are very high," Estell said. "It makes me think, stop and smell the roses. Don't ever forget to."
Estell said she's learned to appreciate life so much more than years ago when she was simply a self-described sorority girl.
"At one time, I was your typical 22-year-old sorority girl thinking I was invincible, and that just wasn't the case," she said. "This has made me open my eyes, because there is really another side of life, and this is a real eye opener."
To help Estell, click here.
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