A WOMAN whose left leg is more than double the size of her right has spoken out to help others with their self-confidence, as she works towards classifying as a para-athlete.

Didi Okoh, 19, from Chelmsford, was diagnosed with lymphedema - a condition where excess fluid collects in tissues and causes swelling - in 2016 when she was just 13 years old.

She first noticed a problem with her left leg when attending a gifted and talented athletics morning in 2015, when a friend commented that one of her thighs looked 'bigger than the other'.

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The keen athlete went to see her GP, who told her to take Calpol and rest.

But after a year of appointments, Didi was diagnosed in July 2016 after visiting a consultant at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Didi struggles to find jeans and shorts to fit her uneven legs, but has discovered her own style, finding dresses and skirts that she can slip over her large limb.

She was also teased as a teen for her ‘tree trunk leg’ - and has experienced rude questions and comments about what she wears - but she has since learned to embrace it.

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Didi said: "It’s such a rare condition that the doctors didn’t recognise it at first.

“I’ve always been really into sport, so we thought my muscles were just swollen.

“But it started to spread and got more and more painful, so we knew something wasn’t right.

"It's a progressive condition, it goes in stages. If I were to have no treatment or manage the condition, it would be much worse. Right now, it's one-and-a-half 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.

"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."

Didi has been told that there are no surgery or treatment options for her specific type of lymphedema.

She manages the swelling by wearing high compression tights and elevating her leg.

However, when Didi’s lymphedema flares up, she can experience extreme fatigue - sometimes struggling to get out of bed.

The swelling can make it difficult for her to sit down and concentrate on her studies and she described the pain as 'like lactic acid times ten'.

However, Didi’s love of sport has served as a positive outlet for her frustration, and she is working towards classifying as a para-athlete - with her sights set on becoming a Paralympian in the future.

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“After I was diagnosed, I found it really hard to compete as I was so tired, and my swollen leg was so painful," she said.

"The coaches also wouldn’t take me on because I was a higher injury risk, and they didn’t want to be responsible for that.

"It was a difficult time and I had to stop competing in track events and had to switch to hammer throw so there wasn't as much impact on my legs.

“But athletics is my passion, and I didn’t want to let my condition control my life. I try my best to just get on with things and not be defined by it.

“Now I’m in the process of classifying to be a para-athlete - it's been amazing to be back doing what I love.

“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.”