This young woman dated her boyfriend for years without revealing her rare medical condition. But after almost a decade of suffering in silence, she mustered the courage to reveal herself to the world.
Twenty-four-year-old Meagan Barnard of Minneapolis, Minnesota began dating 27-year-old Robert Neidenfeuhr in 2014. But while the relationship was going well, Meagan was hiding a huge secret.
As Neidenfeuhr recalled in an interview with Barcroft TV, “I never noticed it because she kept it very hidden. She was very careful about closed doors, lights off. That kind of thing.”
The fact that she managed to hide it for so long is incredible. This is not only because of how visually noticeable the condition is, but also because of the pain and extra medical attention it requires every day.
But in July 2015 Barnard ran across something that changed her outlook on her life with the condition. She read the quote, “The world changes in direct proportion to the number of people willing to be honest about their lives.”
The quote made Barnard realize that concealing her condition did nothing to help her or to help other sufferers. Hence, she made the bold decision to come clean with Neidenfeuhr and with the rest of the world.
The disorder that Barnard is afflicted with is called lymphedema, and it is caused by a buildup of fluid in her right leg, which makes it severely swollen. This rare illness is the result of impaired lymph nodes and currently has no cure.
Barnard revealed her condition, then, by doing a daring photo shoot in a bathing suit. Her boyfriend was shocked to discover the truth, particularly as he had never noticed anything wrong before.
On any given day, Barnard can have more than half a gallon of surplus fluid in her leg. She’s said that the swelling gives her joint pain, sensitive skin and prevents her from being able to do anything more intense than walking.
In addition, the lymphedema also forces her to maintain a strict self-care routine. In the morning, for example, Barnard puts on a special garment that compresses her leg to prevent the swelling from getting worse as the day progresses.
Additionally, after getting home from work, she uses a compression pump for an hour to massage the swelling. Finally, she wraps her leg in foam and bandages it for the rest of the day.
Barnard was diagnosed with the condition when she was only 15, and, given teenagers’ preoccupation with physical appearance, it couldn’t have come at a worse time. Indeed, Barnard was so devastated that she quickly spiraled into depression.
She said other kids at school bullied her, and even called her names like “Michelin Man” because of her swollen leg. Barnard would cry every day after school and became determined to hide her condition as much as possible.
It was very difficult for Barnard to accept the situation. As her older sister Kaitlyn recalled to Barcroft, “We were absolutely not allowed to talk about it… She was the only one who could really talk about it.”
Barnard has said that things got so bad that by the time she was at college she considered suicide. The 20-year-old girl even sent her father a suicide note, and when they met she told him that she didn’t have it in her to keep on living.
But, thankfully, Barnard persevered and is now trying to pursue a modeling career while simultaneously raising awareness about her rare condition. Certainly, the photos from her shoot have captured a great deal of attention online.
And she is no longer afraid of wearing dresses or concerned with what people think of her leg. Her friends are proud of Barnard for refusing to be a victim and for acting as a role model for other girls.
For her part, Barnard has said that since her photos have been posted online, other people with lymphedema have contacted her to share their experiences. This will undoubtedly only give her more motivation to follow her dreams.
But despite all her positivity, Barnard’s lymphedema will continue to get worse over time. And because health insurance companies deem the surgery for it cosmetic, they refuse to cover its costs.
Because of this, Barnard started her own GoFundMe campaign in September 2015, hoping to raise the $44,000 required for her medical treatment. She writes on the site that the surgery would give her “a whole new life.” We wish her the best of luck.