JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - It's a disease millions of Americans are fighting and one out of every three women with breast cancer will eventually develop. It's called lymphedema.
It's a disease where excess fluid collects in the body causing a person's arms or legs to swell up.
Jennifer Hovatter lost her husband Thomas to lymphedema on June 18, 2007. She tells News 5 the disease is a result of a surgery or injury a person had. Thomas was only 43 years old when he died but now Jennifer wants to find a cure for the disease and open a clinic to help patients with lymphedema in her husband's memory.
"I will never get over the loss, but it has helped me know who I am and what I am capable of," says Jennifer.
Hovatter promises to devote the rest of her life to help lymphedema patients everywhere.
In 2002, her husband Thomas became very sick but doctors had no idea what the cause was.
They kept telling him he was overweight and needed gastric bypass surgery. Thomas decided to take matters into his own hands where he researched and confirmed he had lymphedema.
Six months after doctor's were able to confirm the disease, it was too late.
"The night he passed away in the hospital I made that decision to start that business and my dream is to open a lymphedema clinic here," adds Jennifer.
And here in Tennessee June 16th through the 22nd is the state's designated lymphedema week. It's a chance for Jennifer to share her husband's story and make people more aware of this terrible disease.
"I'm not a doctor. I can't give medical advice but I know from experience and what I've heard," says Jennifer. "I can try to educate the public and the lymphedema patients and the medical field about lymphedema."
Jennifer says she wakes up every morning thinking how can she make a difference and although there is no cure there are ways to treat and contain the disease.
Patients can wear compression garments on the affected areas but they're extremely expensive.
Jennifer wants to change that and is now trying to get the Lymphedema Treatment Act passed by Congress.
"When this bill is passed into law they will ensure that they will have coverage, medicare coverage, for lymphedema patients," says Jennifer.
She believes it's her mission to do whatever she can to educate people all in her husband's memory.
Jennifer tells News 5 that if anything, she wants people in other states to contact the Congressmen in their district and ask them to co-sign this bill. They need signatures and need Congressmen to help get the bill passed so patients can get the coverage they need.
If you want more information on the Lymphedema Treatment Act, you can visit the website at www.lymphedematreatmentact.org.
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