Jonathan Zierdt's first serious medical challenge came Monday when he underwent surgery to remove a mass on his left kidney.
And when it was over, his doctors had good news for him.
"It was a long day, with four hours of surgery," Zierdt said. "But It all came out really well."
Zierdt, 47, was diagnosed recently with prostate cancer. And after complications triggered by a biopsy procedure, he became ill with flu-like symptoms. That prompted further testing, which then revealed that he also had a mass on his left kidney that looked suspiciously cancerous.
On top of that, he had enlarged aortic lymph nodes and nodules on his lung.
He formed a strategy to attack it all, and the first step was Monday's surgery. The good news for Zierdt is that the mass on his left kidney, later confirmed to be renal cell carcinoma (clear cell, stage two), was encapsulated and had not yet begun to move. Doctors removed the mass and were able to spare his kidney, although it has been clamped off and will be checked in two to three months to make sure it has "reawakened" and can function properly.
The enlarged lymph nodes turned out to be cysts. The nodules on the lung are less of a concern now because the mass on his kidney was encapsulated. (Lung nodules, on their own, are not much concern. When kidney cancer begins to move, though, it favors the kidney, which is why doctors were concerned about the nodules.)
Also, the so-called "margin" area — tissue surrounded the mass — tested negative for cancer.
"So that means what we're down to is the prostate cancer and the lymph nodes that surround it," Zierdt said.
Zierdt said the experience so far has made him feel blessed. Friends and family were with him in Rochester. And as his situation has become more public, people have gone to his Caring Bridge site to wish him well.
"It's overwhelming. Like we said, it's an unbelievable gift," he said. "I read these things and think, how will Ginger and I ever repay the love and care and interest people have shown? What have we done to deserve that?"
The next step for Zierdt comes in about six weeks, when he'll likely undergo his second surgery, this time for prostate cancer.