MANKATO — Jonathan Zierdt was all smiles Friday as he celebrated a milestone in his prostate cancer treatment.
Zierdt, 48, the Greater Mankato Growth CEO and president, had his 38th and final radiation treatment Friday at the Andreas Cancer Center in Mankato. He celebrated with a ceremonial bell ringing in front of family, friends and his staff at GMG.
“I'm very fortunate to be part of this community,” Zierdt said before thanking the Mayo doctors, nurses and staff for their work.
“While this is a challenging time, it's also a time I get incredible purpose out of,” he said. “As difficult of a journey as it is, I choose to embrace the blessing of it.”
Zierdt was diagnosed with prostate and kidney cancer in November 2013 and underwent three surgeries last winter. He recovered over the spring and summer, but the prostate cancer returned in September.
Zierdt began anti-hormone therapy in late September and started radiation in December, which he's had every weekday since. The treatments have disrupted his diet and lifestyle, giving him hot flashes and general fatigue.
Though the radiation therapy is now over, Zierdt said he will still feel the impact of it for about seven to 10 days. He said he's hoping to be “back to baseline” in March, the month in which he will finish anti-hormone therapy.
Not only is he physically getting stronger, Zierdt said he's becoming a better person, too. He calls his journey “a remarkable gift” and has made it part of his personal mission to help raise awareness of men's health issues.
Zierdt is also leaving a tangible mark on the Andreas Cancer Center. He and his wife, Ginger, bought the bell for the center, which he hopes other patients will ring to mark treatment milestones.
While Zierdt credits the community for their support during his journey, those in the community credit him for his energy and inspiration.
“We're all one in a billion, and he's one in 10 billion,” Dr. Greg Kutcher, CEO of Mayo Clinic Health System in Southwest Minnesota, said after Zierdt rang the bell.
Then he addressed Zierdt directly: “Just personally we're grateful for the energy that you've brought to us and the energy you give to the caregivers to give back to others.”