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A Chaplain's little miracle

Maj. Matthew Zimmerman, Chaplain at Westover Air Reserve base, enjoys spending time with his five-year-old son Gavin, who is living proof that miracles really do happen. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)

Maj. Matthew Zimmerman, Chaplain at Westover Air Reserve base, enjoys spending time with his five-year-old son Gavin, who is living proof that miracles really do happen. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)

Maj. Matthew Zimmerman, Chaplain at Westover Air Reserve base, enjoys spending time with his five-year-old son Gavin, who is living proof that miracles really do happen. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)

Maj. Matthew Zimmerman, Chaplain at Westover Air Reserve base, enjoys spending time with his five-year-old son Gavin, who is living proof that miracles really do happen. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)

Maj. Matthew Zimmerman, Chaplain at Westover Air Reserve base, enjoys spending time with his five-year-old son Gavin, who is living proof that miracles really do happen. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)

Maj. Matthew Zimmerman, Chaplain at Westover Air Reserve base, enjoys spending time with his five-year-old son Gavin, who is living proof that miracles really do happen. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)

WESTOVER AIR RESERVE BASE -- The story still gives him chills.

Maj. Matthew Zimmerman, chaplain with the 439th Airlift Wing, recently opened up to his fellow wingmen about a family battle he’s been dealing with quietly: cancer. Nine months ago, Zimmerman’s five-year-old son Gavin was diagnosed with an inoperable tumor.

“It was the night of the Super Bowl, and Cari and I were rushing our son to the hospital after he complained of severe headaches that just would not go away,” he said. Their son had already been seen by the pediatrician several times and had been diagnosed with a sinus infection, but the headaches were getting worse, and his eyes began to bulge. His pediatrician decided to refer him to an ophthalmologist.

The ophthalmologist noticed an abnormal movement in Gavin’s eyes and ordered an MRI scan as a precaution. During the MRI, Zimmerman and his wife turned to God in prayer.

“God, if you could just fix this. We’ve got a game to catch and 40 people waiting at home for a Super Bowl party. Please make it better….Amen.” He admits it was a cavalier prayer. A few moments later, Zimmerman says he heard God’s voice; “Matt, if I want to use this for my glory, will you give him to me?” Stunned, he struggled to respond. “I know what I’m supposed to say, but…” He eventually said, “yes.”

Moments later, the Zimmermans were given life-altering news. The doctors began to discuss tumors and chemotherapy, and the full force of what was happening began to wash over him.

The tumor was located within the sinus cavity behind Gavin’s eye, and surgery was too risky due to its location surrounded by nerves, muscles and blood vessels. His doctors referred to the location as, “expensive real estate,” he said. Since the risks with surgery were far too great, they proceeded with his first round of chemotherapy.

Several months into chemo, doctors put his treatment on hold for two-weeks to evaluate how his body was responding to the treatment, and monitor the tumor itself. After reviewing his first set of scans, his oncologist had great news. The tumor had stopped growing.

Although it had stopped growing, doctors told the Zimmermans that the tumor was still there, and although dead, it would always remain part of his “story.”

Five days later, the Zimmermans received news they will never forget. A second scan showed that the tumor had completely disappeared. The radiologist’s exact words were, “This is awesome. I am so happy for this little boy!”

“There was no medical explanation,” said Zimmerman. “On Friday the mass was there. Five days later there is no sign of it anywhere.” When he asked the doctors if they would call it a miracle, they had no choice but to agree.

According to Zimmerman, human beings run on three main things, “food, air and hope. If you’re running low on hope today, come run with me. I’ve got a whole lot of it,” he said.

Although Gavin will have to finish his current round of chemo, the prognosis could not be better. Less than a year ago, thoughts of losing his young son flooded his brain, but now he’s filled with hope and the personal testimony that miracles really do happen.