A teenager who has an enlarged leg due to a rare condition has revealed the rude remarks she’s subjected to from strangers on the street.
Didi Okoh, a 19-year-old British born Nigerian suffers from lymphedema, a rare medical condition where fluid builds up in the tissue of the leg, causing severe swelling.
Lymphedema is a condition that can manifest without a clear reason and is often a long-term or chronic condition.
Okoh was first diagnosed with the rare condition when she was just 13 years old after noticing that her left leg had ballooned to almost times two the size of her right leg.
“People will often stop and stare at my legs,” Okoh told South West News Service in an interview released Monday, June 13.
“Some will even come straight up to me and ask what’s wrong with me. I had a woman stop me in the street and tell me that I need to pray.”
Okoh says she has been living with the enlarged leg for the past six years, and was subjected to bullying during high school, with her classmates calling her “tree trunk leg.”
She said she thought the insults would stop as she got older, but that isn’t the case.
“It’s quite rude and it used to bother me when I was younger, but now I think that people just don’t know enough about it and need educating,” she explained. “Rather than getting annoyed, I just explain to them that I have a condition.”
“I’ve always been quite a bubbly and positive person, but after my diagnosis I did struggle,” she explained. “It was hard when I was around 15 as my leg was getting bigger and I was self-conscious, but when I turned 18 it just hit me that I can’t mope around and feel bad about it because it’s not going anywhere.
“I chose then and there to just embrace it, and I feel so much more confident now,” she added.
Okoh struggles to find jeans and shorts to fit her uneven legs but has discovered her own style with dresses and skirts that she can slip over her larger limb.
“It’s a progressive condition; it goes in stages,” Okoh stated. “If I were to have no treatment or manage the condition, it would be much worse. Right now it’s 1½ times bigger than the other leg. It can sometimes reduce when I’m managing it, but it’ll never be the same size as the other leg.”
Because of the build-up of fluid, Okoh has to be careful of cuts or scratches, which can leave her leg leaking for days.
“It really freaked me out at first, but now [that] I know what it is, I understand that it’s just part of my condition,” she stated. “I’ve learned to get used to it.”
She said she dreams of becoming a Paralympian.
“It’s been amazing to be back doing what I love,” she declared. “It would be a dream come true to compete in the Paralympics, but more than anything I want to use my story to help others who might be struggling with their health or self-confidence.”