Cancer Saved Her Life!
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“I think I felt guilt and shame, because how could I allow myself, first of all, to be put in a situation like that? It was my fault. I must have done something to allow them, to give them permission to do what they did to me,” Jennifer says.
In October, 1988, Jennifer Zimmerman was a freshman in college with a bright future ahead of her. But everything changed one night when she went to a friend’s apartment off campus. “It was a normal weekday evening, just going over to his apartment--no party, anything like that,” she says. “There were a couple of other girls in the apartment, I remember that, and maybe some of his roommates. The next thing I remember, waking up, in a bed. and I said, ‘I don't feel good. Something doesn't feel right. I need help.’ I couldn't see faces. I could just see silhouettes of bodies.’ It wouldn't take long for me to understand what was happening.”
The events of that evening would haunt her for decades. “My trust was destroyed after that, after that night, again, because he was my friend. So I struggled with that, for a very long time.”
After being threatened by the men, Jennifer left campus and moved back home. She later discovered she was pregnant. “I remember going to a clinic, a women's clinic. I remember going there and just standing and staring at that door thinking, ‘I can't have this baby.’ And something would stop me from going through those doors.”
Jennifer kept her baby. In 1998, after dating for several years, she married, and she and her husband had three children. She wanted to start attending church to seek healing, but her emotionally abusive husband, refused to allow her to attend. “I had begged, ‘Pease let me go to church. We need help. I need help. I need something. I'm suffering. I'm dying inside.’ And, it just wasn't allowed.”
Then, in 2015, Jennifer was diagnosed with cervical cancer. “I was told very early on that I was looking at a year. I had a year left to live,” she says. “And I was just angry enough to stay alive and angry enough to say, ‘No, it's not on your terms anymore. It's on my terms. It's on His terms. I'm going to church.”
While taking her cancer treatments, Jennifer continued to seek God. She also says it was during this time that she had an encounter with Jesus in an unlikely place. “I met Jesus in a radiation tunnel. The radiation is so intense, if it would hit any other organ in my body, it would destroy it. I had to be so still. And it was in that stillness that I met Jesus truly in that radiation tunnel. I felt His presence.”
There, Jennifer asked God to heal her and to save her. “I could just feel His presence. I could feel His arms around me,” she says. “I didn't even know up until that point that I could call out on God, um, and that He would answer. I don’t know if there are adequate words to express how I felt. I just knew. I knew it was Him. I was set free. I was bold and, and I knew, I knew then whatever, whatever amount of time that I had left, whether they were a right or they were wrong, if I had a year, I was gonna use it to glorify His name. And I knew in that moment, I couldn’t deny Him.”
She later asked God to help her change her heart toward the men who assaulted her. “He absolutely is doing a work in me and it’s gonna take some time and some patience with myself. I do want to be set free from that,” she adds. “And not so much because he hurt me. It's because of the collateral damage, what it caused for my son. I left that campus carrying a child who would spend the next, the biggest part of his life, not knowing who his father was.”
Jennifer and her husband eventually divorced, and she continued to respond to cancer treatments and is now in total remission. “Cancer saved my life. It, it gave me permission to boldly chase Him. There's so much beauty and so much promise and so much love and peace. Everything has changed. My world is brighter.”
She has since founded a ministry called ‘Rise’ that helps women who are victims of domestic abuse. “It truly just started with me sharing my story,” Jennifer says. “There was a time I needed shelter and I needed safety, and I didn’t seek it because it was just more trauma. Now I get to go into these spaces and I get to design for them, and I get to, I get to walk this part of people's stories, helping them transition out of these shelters into their own homes.”
As she grew in her relationship with Christ, Jennifer was released from her guilt and shame and wants to tell everyone about the physical, emotional—and spiritual--healing power of Jesus.
“I physically can't shut my mouth about it now. And I said, ‘I will scream it from the mountaintops.’ I love Him so much, and to know that I am loved by such a perfect God. I'm not worthy. I know that, but I'm loved anyhow,” she says. “The rest of the world needs to feel and know too. People need to be set free from their own bondages and their own prisons, serving sentences for crimes they didn't commit. That's my purpose."
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