The Free Press, Mankato, MN


January 12, 2014

For optimistic Zierdt, the fight is on

GMG president dealing with cancer diagnosis


The next big phase of Zierdt's life begins Monday, when he'll undergo the first of at least two surgeries at a Mayo Clinic hospital in Rochester. He's optimistic. Whatever it takes, he said, whether it's chemotherapy, radiation or whatever. He's going to fight.

Early signs

Over the past few years, results from his prostate-specific antigen tests have shown slightly elevated numbers. He also has a family history that leaves him at a higher risk of having prostate cancer. The final red flag came when a prostate exam revealed a lump on his prostate.

Because of all those factors, his doctors suggested they look a little further into what's happening with his prostate.

His biopsy procedure was done Nov. 1. Four days later his doctor delivered the news: prostate cancer.

In the prostate cancer world, severity is measured on something called the Gleason Grading System. People with prostate cancer are evaluated and given a score of 0 through 10 with 10 being the worst. Zierdt's cancer was given a Gleason score of 8, which means it is highly aggressive and requires equally aggressive treatment.

Four days after that diagnosis, Zierdt began feeling ill. As it turns out, prostate biopsy procedures are notorious for triggering infections, and that's exactly what happened to him. It started in his prostate and moved on to his urinary tract and kidney before finally getting into his bloodstream.

On Nov. 10 he and his wife, Ginger, went into the emergency department at Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato where he was given antibiotics for his infection. His conditioned worsened. The next day he went to his urologist, thinking that would be the best place to figure out what was going on with him.

The urologist, upon seeing Zierdt, could tell this was a medically dangerous situation and sent him back to the emergency department. Doctors there were curious about the odd combination of Zierdt's gravely ill condition combined with the pain he was experiencing in his side. So they ordered a CT scan, which revealed the next phase of Zierdt's health odyssey: kidney cancer. (His surgery Monday, in fact, will be to remove a mass on his left kidney — which initially was labeled a renal cell carcinoma, but only tests on the mass after removal will be able to tell for sure. Doctors will attempt to keep as much of the kidney intact as possible. If necessary, it will be removed.)

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