Aspiring model Meghan Barnard from Minneapolis, Minnesota suffers from a rare condition called lymphedema for almost a decade. Now she is raising awareness to help the people around the world who have shared the same struggle.
The incurable disease causes extreme swelling in her right leg due to damaged lymph nodes. After facing name-calling and all kinds of torment, she is now hoping to become a role model for others by sharing her story.
Due to the condition being considered incurable, surgery is the only option for Meghan to have a functioning leg. She has recently set up a GoFundMe page where $11,245 of the $44k goal have already been donated!
She was 15 years old when she was diagnosed, after noticing swelling in her right leg. Doctors discovered the lymph nodes in Meghan’s right leg did not develop properly during puberty, making them unfit to process the fluid throughout the rest of her body, in turn remaining trapped in her leg.
Her leg stores up to three pounds of excess fluid. Meghan uses compression bandages to help carry the excess fluid which can be up to three pounds at times, but this is just a temporary solution.
Meghan has been bullied at school and called names like the ‘Michelin Kid’.
She says, “Everyone was laughing at me. If it wasn’t for the bullying, I wouldn’t have gone about hiding it the way I had.”
Her shame was so consuming, she would hide from the world. Even with her boyfriend, it took time for her to learn to trust him: “If Rob and I were sitting next to each other watching a movie there would be a big, thick blanket between us so he couldn’t feel how hard my leg was.”
Ten years after her diagnosis, she decided it was time to stop hiding.
On her GoFundMe page, Meghan has described her experience of living with the ailment and the depression it had pushed her towards during her teens, as well as the day-to-day difficulties she encounters. She explains how insurance companies regard her condition as a cosmetic one and looked at it no differently than having unnecessary plastic surgery; “In reality, having lymphedema is anything but cosmetic.”
“I only felt normal when I felt lymphedema wasn’t a part of my life,” Meghan has revealed, but those days are distant memories now. Her friends tell of her transformation and how she has become a person comfortable with who she is. Now, Meghan is ready to help others do the same too.
As part of her healing process, Meghan was encouraged to pose as a model that would not conceal her right leg. Things snowballed from there as she loved the experience and the pictures that came out of it, feeling they could be inspirational to numerous people sharing her predicament.
“I really enjoyed modeling for the pictures and would love to do more of that in the future,” she says.
Watch the video for Meghan Barnard’s full story, including what life with lymphedema without health insurance is like and her hopes for the surgery and her future.