Jennifer Hovatter



On June 18th, 2007 my husband Thomas passed away from complications due to Lymphedema. He was only 43 years old when he passed away.  Six months before he passed away, Thomas was looking up treatment for lymphedema on the computer.   His doctor wasn’t doing anything to help his lymphedema and he was getting worse.  He was getting tired and wanted treatment. He came across manual lymphatic drainage therapy.  He said to me, “Dear, you could learn this treatment, start your own business and treat me”.  

Six months later, he passed away.  Thomas wasn’t properly diagnosed with Lymphedema. His doctor kept telling him to lose weight and nothing was being done about his lymphedema. That night after he passed away, I remembered what he said about me learning the treatment and starting my own business. 

I gave myself time to grieve and then got to work. In 2008, I enrolled at East Tennessee State University with passion in my heart. In Thomas’ memory, I walked across campus daily to my classes thinking about how I was going to help the lymphedema community. I was 37 when I started school at ETSU. In December 2013, I received a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Health.  I will be pursuing an education by attending graduate school. I want to do what Thomas said and start that business.  My dream is to open a lymphedema clinic in Thomas’ memory, and become a psychologist so that I can help lymphedema patients cope with the condition. 

I will be attending graduate school where I will obtain my Masters and Doctorate in Psychology.  My decision to carry out my destiny will help those maybe not in my lifetime, but in the future.  I think about how responsible I am for who I am, and what I will become and achieve.  I believe that my purpose in life is to carry on in my husband’s memory, treating those who have lymphedema. 

I can choose to stay home and grieve, but my life’s plan won’t allow it.  Yes, I do cry over my husband, but something stirs up in my heart that pushes me more and more.  I have never loved something so much as the determination to achieve my goal.  I think that it was God’s purpose and my destiny in life that my husband and I met and were given years together, so that I could know the plan for my life to carry on the advocacy of lymphedema in his memory.  I believe when God closes one door, he opens another – and I pray that the door he opens will someday be the door to The Thomas Hovatter Lymphedema Clinic.