By Dan Howlett @DanHowlett85

AN aspiring model has bared her leg for the first time in ten years after a rare condition led to it ballooning in size

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Videographer / director: Ruaridh Connellan
Producer: Dan Howlett, Nick Johnson
Editor: Kyle Waters, Ian Phillips

Model behaviour: After keeping her condition a secret Meagan bared almost all in a photo shoot

Meagan Barnard’s lymphedema left her feeling suicidal and alone after she banned her family and friends from talking about it.

The 24-year-old hid her leg under baggy clothes and refused to wear a dress or a skirt for more than a decade when her school friends called her the Michelin Man and other cruel nicknames.

Family support: She would not allow her family to discuss her condition

Amazingly Meagan even managed to hide the condition from her boyfriend of two years, Robert Neidenfeuhr, 27.

Meagan said: “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.

No fear: Meagan is now completely open about the condition

“We had been together for two years when I went public and he had no idea.”

He claims that he never noticed her swollen leg – even when the couple was at their most intimate.

Helping out: She hopes to raise awareness and prevent other young women suffering in silence

Robert added: “She was extremely careful but I really didn’t notice, there were lots of closed doors, lots of lights off – that kind of thing.”

Despite her insecurities Meagan has decided to go public about the condition in the hope that other young girls do not suffer in silence like she did.

Meagan, from Minneapolis in the USA, said: “I really don’t know how I’ve hidden this for so long.

Secret love: Meagan managed to hide her leg from her boyfriend
Funding surgery: Meagan hopes to raise money to pay for liposuction

“I guess I don’t want other young girls to have to go through what I did.

“At the time I would rather have not been alive than have lymphedema.

“After opening up, it’s just taken this weight off my shoulders and I feel so much happier.

Bullying victim: Children in school used to call her cruel names like the Michelin Man

“I was extremely depressed I would come home from school every day, cry and ask why me - it felt like my life was over at 15.

“At my lowest point I had written a suicide letter to my dad – I told him I was done and I was just going to end it.”

Meagan’s condition began in puberty when her lymph nodes did not grow large enough to process fluid, which then remained trapped in her leg.

Extremely depressed: Meagan contemplated suicide at one point

The result was extreme swelling in her right leg with up to three litres of excess fluid being stored at any one time.

“I woke up one morning and my foot was slightly swollen,” added Meagan. “It wasn’t painful at the time and I didn’t think anything of it.

“I saw multiple doctors who said it may have happened during puberty because my lymph nodes didn’t grow or that I could have injured it in some other way – they had no idea what caused it.

Nightly routine: Each night Meagan has to wrap her leg and use a compression pump

“When I was finally told that I had incurable lymphedema it felt like my life had ended - that’s exactly how I took the news.”

Meagan has to wear painful compression pants for 70 minutes each day to provide temporary relief from the pain.

Long process: She spends around 70 minutes using the device each night

“All my joints ache constantly and normal day to day activities like walking and going to work are extremely painful,” added Meagan.

“I’m starting to come to terms with the condition but for ten years I felt like I belonged in a circus.

Constant pain: Doctors originally struggled to diagnose her condition
Freak show: Meagan felt like she belonged in a circus for much of her teenage years

“Along with the pants I have to use a manual compression pump whenever I can to get rid of the swelling.”

Despite the condition having no known cure Meagan would be able to gain long-term relief from liposuction.

No dresses: Meagan hid her leg for more than a decade under dresses and baggy clothes

Unfortunately health insurance companies in the USA consider her condition to be cosmetic and have denied her the treatment she needs.

The longer she goes without the surgery the worse her condition will become which is why she has decided to self fund the procedure with the help of her friends and family.

The right foot: Meagan hopes that by going public she will help more women with the condition

“I really enjoyed modeling for the pictures and would love to do more of that in the future,” added Meagan.

“But without the surgery I feel like many opportunities are not available to me – I just want a chance to live a normal life with normal opportunities.”