The Free Press, Mankato, MN


January 12, 2014

For optimistic Zierdt, the fight is on

GMG president dealing with cancer diagnosis

He remembers seeing the light.

Not figuratively, like when you suddenly come to an understanding about something. Literally, as in he was actually seeing “the light,” he said.

After days of getting progressively sicker — including a day when his fever spiked higher than 104 — Jonathan Zierdt, a man whose energy and positivity have made him a recognizable figure in the Mankato community, lost consciousness.

In that moment, he said, he had an experience similar to ones others have described when they're near death.

“I saw a light. A beautiful, bright light,” Zierdt said, “and I remember thinking, 'That's heaven. I get to go there … But not today. I have things left to do.'”

When he returned, he did so with a sense of patience, calm and peace he said hadn't been in his life until then.

Which is good. Because he's probably going to need it.

Zierdt, president and CEO of Greater Mankato Growth (Mankato's Chamber of Commerce and economic development organization), said his period of unconsciousness was caused by an infection triggered during a biopsy. His doctor had recently found a lump on his prostate, and the biopsy was being done to determine whether or not it was cancerous.

In the last few months, Zierdt's life has been transformed. After his prostate cancer diagnosis, he's learned a lot about himself, about his relationships with his family, about how people in this community feel about him, and even more about just how firmly cancer's grip is on his life – there was more bad news to come.

But instead of folding up and moping, Zierdt is embracing the opportunity he has to live another chapter of his life to the fullest and become an example to men. His message? Don't be such a man. Take care of your health and listen to your doctor before it's too late.

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