Prior to surgery his prostate cancer scored an 8 on the Gleason evaluation system, which is used to assess a tumor's progression and aggressiveness. Post surgery, they informed Zierdt it was actually more of a 9. The worst is 10.
He'd been hoping the entire tumor would be encapsulated. When doctors got inside, however, they found it had spread, but only a little. It had reached the fatty tissue around the prostate. This doesn't change much about his future other than he's tentatively planning on undergoing radiation treatment after he's back to full health.
One of the biggest joys throughout this process, Zierdt said, has been people showing support and men confiding with him that, by sharing his story, they've been moved to take their health more seriously. Zierdt and his wife, Ginger, have piles of letters, cards and emails from well-wishers, and the correspondence could eventually wind up in a scrapbook.
He's proud he's been able to inspire men to get healthy, and said that, in the future, should any group or organization ask him to talk about his experience, he'll not think twice about it. Of course he'll do it.
The game plan for now, though, is to rest. He's got doctors' orders: no lifting more than 10 pounds and no exercising until April 14. After that, he plans to continue his routine of waking up at 5 a.m. and heading straight to the pool at the YMCA.
Whatever he does, though, one thing's for certain. He'll be a different guy. Instead of meeting a friend for coffee, maybe he'll offer to play a round of golf. Instead of late on a Friday, maybe he'll realize work can wait until Monday. Or at least until tomorrow.
"I'm not any less committed to anything," he said. "But I want to make sure there's good balance in my life."