A LUPUS sufferer has inspired her best friend to face a fear of her own — by abseiling down the O2 arena in London.

Natalie Taylor and Lara Pownall, both aged 35, have been friends since they studied performing arts together at Bury College 19 years ago.

When Natalie was diagnosed with incurable immune system illness Lupus in 2011, Lara pledged to raise as much money as possible to support her.

On June 21, Lara and mutual friend Carla Southern, both from Failsworth, will abseil from the 52-metre building in aid of Lupus UK despite Lara being afraid of heights.

Natalie, of Manchester Road, Bury, was initially diagnosed after suffering from joint pain and contracting pleurisy and viral meningitis.

Her health declined last Christmas when the genetic condition, which is caused by the immune system producing too many antibodies, spread to her brain and kidneys. She also has epilepsy as a result of the Lupus and has had to give up her job working with children with special needs because of her impaired immune system.

Natalie said: “Lara and I have always been so close.

When I was ill a lot growing up, she was the one who sat by my bedside.

“It is a constant battle but I am not the kind of person who is willing to let an illness control my life.

“It would be very easy to lie in bed and let it take you over, but no matter how I feel I always get out of bed, have a shower and get dressed. No matter what life throws at you, there is always someone worse off and you have to put a smile on your face, think positive and carry on.”

There is no cure for Lupus and Lupus UK aims to raise awareness and find ways to stop the disease progressing.

Lara works at the O2 call centre in Bury and her employer has agreed to match whatever she raises up to £250.

Lara said: “It can be really horrible to see Natalie suffering — this has turned her life upside down. She is one of the happiest people I have ever met and is constantly smiling.

■ See www.justgiving.com/Lara-Pownall or text LARA53 with an amount to 70070.