When Bruce Zimmerman started his studies at Dallas Seminary, his only thought was to learn the Bible to gain a better understanding of its knowledge. The singular goal has now transformed the lives of people that he has helped find salvation over his 33 years of ministry in at Waxahachie Bible Church.
For the past year, he and his wife Sheila have undergone cancer treatment. In March of 2017, Bruce was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and a few months later Sheila received news she had colon cancer.
“Neither my wife or I had health problems of any kind up till now in our lives. We have never had health issues. We have never come close to reaching our deductible for medical expenses or anything like that,” Bruce said. “When I found out in March I had cancer they were talking about how they were going to treat that, and what was going to be the approach. My wife, all of a sudden, comes down with colon cancer. There was no chance to think about how we were going to process that because she was in trouble.”
When they found Sheila had cancer that June, they met with the surgeon the following day, and operated soon after.
He noted that there was no time to process what was going on at that time because you had to act quickly.
“From a spiritual standpoint, I think that God has taught us a lot through this. We have learned to trust God in ways that we have never had to trust him before. We have never had to trust him with our health I guess that we took it for granted,” Bruce expressed. “It is like if you have to trust him with money. If you have a lot of money, it is easy to say, ‘I am trusting in Jesus.’ But if you lose everything are you able to trust in God? It is not that we lost all our health but when they use the word 'cancer' you can’t mess with this thing you have got to do something about this. That has taught us to trust God more.”
Sheila shared battling cancer was a unique experience since he had her husband by her side. They supported and leaned on one another. She noted that God could have only planned the timing of everything.
“So when he decided to go there [the National Institutes of Health] our timing of having it together was great because I went through chemo and surgery. He was taking pills but had not gone through surgery,” Sheila added. “Now I am done, it’s his turn to have surgery. I could not have orchestrated it better unless it was God. He made it to where we were not both laid up at the same time.”
Bruce said Sheila is in remission and their scans and blood work show excellent progress.
Bruce has undergone treatment at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland once a month as part of a research study. A friend of the Zimmermans was undergoing treatment there and referred Bruce to the hospital.
“A friend of ours was going up there, and she has a rare type of brain cancer. There was no treatment for it, but through her going up there over and over again they developed some medicines that treat it. It keeps it at bay. She mentioned Bruce’s situation to some of the staff there, and they said, 'Here, give him the forms and have him fill it out,'” Sheila recalled.
The Zimmermans took the opportunity for a potential recovery. Bruce figured that if his case could be studied, the doctors would be familiar with his illness and be able to tackle possible hiccups in his health.
Sheila shared that this journey has brought them closer together. Despite the physical exhaustion from the treatments she noted, “the same old Bruce is still there.”
Bruce agreed to his wife’s thoughts that while at times the illness has taken a physical toll their spiritual strength is even stronger.
“The Lord has provided us great strength through it that we have not been affected or afflicted as some people have. We’ve had side effects from the medications and stuff like that,” Zimmerman noted. “I have been able to come to work when I have been supposed to. I may get tired and feel like I need a nap.”
Since Bruce is receiving treatment in another state, he had to hand over some of the reigns of the ministerial fellowship.
But the community has also reached out to the Zimmermans by hosting a fundraising event in July at Chick-fil-A in Waxahachie. The event was able to take care of their medical and other expenses incurred through the treatment process.
“To go to Chick-fil-A and meet hundreds of people was wonderful. I didn’t get the chance to meet and thank everyone. It pretty much took care of our deductible and out of pocket expenses,” Sheila humbly said. “It was amazing. It was a lot, and it was a big, big help.”
Bruce explained that the treatment has been effective. In the research group, he is in, 49 out of 50 men have responded positively to the treatment. His prostate-specific antigen or PSA levels in the blood have gone down.
The National Cancer Institute states that the PSA is a protein produced by a normal as well as malignant cells of a prostate gland.
Bruce shared that the support from the community has been great during this time and is very appreciative of the prayers, which helped considerably.
"I have felt the tremendous support from this church family and this community. It has just been mind-blowing. People who constantly tell me that you have been our pray list for months and months,” Bruce said.
People have approached Sheila if she was trusting in the chemo and she replies, “No, I am trusting in the Lord that he is using the prayers and the treatments to be effective.”
It is crucial for the Zimmermans to trust the Lord. Bruce relayed that his wife received her report recently and they are thankful to know, Sheila is in remission.