(Warning: Transformation Ahead)
While not likely new to any of you, I’ve been a multiple cancer survivor for more than two and a half years. During that time, I have been blessed to have phenomenal, integrated and patient centric health care from the Mankato Clinic, Mayo Clinic Health System and Mayo Clinic. From original diagnosis to the multitude of surgeries, both targeted at the cancer to complications, the physicians and medical staff across these three facilities and operations have demonstrated why the Livability in our community is so enticing.
I want to share with you that my first chemotherapy cycle was this past Friday, June 25. As I begin a new round of treatments, I wanted to provide you with background, my current diagnosis, the treatment I’m undergoing and what it may mean to you. I will progress through six cycles of chemotherapy with blood tests and imaging scans at various intervals throughout to monitor the progress. Chemotherapy will span the summer and come to conclusion by the end of October.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO YOU AND FOR GREATER MANKATO GROWTH, INC.:
Regardless of the cancer treatment one undergoes, everyone’s treatment is personalized and everyone reacts different. The list of side effects as you can imagine is extensive, and all one can do is anticipate what may happen. Over the course of the next four months (Docetaxel), and two years (Lupron) the medications I’m taking MAY result in you witnessing some “transformation” of both my physical appearance and my behavior, for example:
- hair loss (yep, the bald spot in the back of my head may encompass my whole head)
- low white blood cell counts will increase my risk for infection – so handshakes and hugs will fall out of my greeting repertoire, and may even mean I’ll forego large-scale and close contact events (e.g., Business After Hours), or any such situation that exposes me to contagious infection
- low red blood cell counts can result in anemia, and coupled with the impact of the anti-hormone (Lupron) this may leave me appearing fatigued and weak
- fluid retention can result in weight gain and swelling
- hot flashes are a result of the anti-hormone medication
- mood and memory can certainly be impacted by the medications
- my 21-day chemotherapy “cycles” progressing through a couple of good days, followed by the “onset” of side effects, then most at risk days (“nadir”), and finally followed by a “recovery” period
- other impacts such as nausea, muscle/bone/joint, or digestive challenges you won’t see but from time to time may result in only a “virtual JZ”
Organizationally, GMG, Inc. consists of a professional staff that is among the very best in the industry (talented, capable and dedicated). And that staff is guided, supported and bolstered by the hundreds of dedicated volunteers, including those who serve on our Board of Directors, Boards of Governors and Strategic Initiative Steering & Advisory Boards, along with the multitude of volunteer groups (Ambassadors, Cavaliers, Young Professionals and many more).
Day-to-day our organization is more than capable of continuing to deliver on our mission, and to not only deliver on but exceed your expectations in terms of our programs, services and drive to be a catalyst and partner with you toward Greater Mankato’s increasing economic and community vitality. And at a “bigger” organizational level, should there be an unforeseen circumstance impacting my ability to carry out my chief responsibilities for an extended period of time, we have a formal contingency plan in place.
My continued promise to you, even while enduring this next round of aggressive cancer treatments, is to give you my best every day, whether in person, remotely or virtually. And if there are points when I’m not able to do something as planned (either because of my treatment schedule, or my own physical state) I will absolutely ask for help…THAT is a blessing I’ve grown into during this journey. One of the greatest gifts I’ve received during this journey from you and the community, is a collective allowance to let me be FULLY ALIVE and to LIVE with cancer (as I stated in the special episode KEYC News 12/FOX 12 has been airing for the past month).
BACKGROUND, SPECIFICALLY TO THE CANCERS:
My kidney cancer has been in remission for more than a year and a half with complete confidence it will remain there; however, my prostate cancer has proven to be much more tenacious.
Following surgery (radical prostatectomy) in March, 2014, then 38 rounds of broad field radiation to my abdomen, prostate bed, and pelvic lymph system coupled with six months of anti-hormone therapy from November – May, 2015…the prostate cancer refused to dissipate. So since September, 2015 (PSA of 0.7, should be 0.0 when one doesn’t have a prostate gland) the goal has been to allow the prostate cancer to grow to the point it could be “seen” via the Mayo Clinic’s proprietary technology (Choline (C-11) PET Scan and MRI). Technology that in fact the FDA has only authorized Mayo Clinic in Rochester to manufacture and utilize.
CURRENT DIAGNOSIS & TREATMENT ALREADY UNDERWAY:
During my May, 2016 appointments, my PSA continued to increase (now 6.8) and the scans DID reveal with certainty two lesions, one in my 6th rib and the other in the L4 vertebrae. So the cancer is now metastatic…BUT contrary to what the statistics say about metastatic cancer in one’s bones, I am exponentially advantaged due to the unique imaging technology referenced above, utilized by Dr. Kwon’s team (Dr. Kwon is the Mayo physician in Rochester leading my current treatment). And rather than talk about survival rates, Dr. Kwon, based on case evidence was able to visit with us about a “potential” path to curing…remarkable!
It will be a fairly “rigorous” and challenging route to get there, however. On Wednesday, May 25 I underwent a very precise and concentrated dose of radiation (akin to radiation “surgery”) to each of the two lesions at Mayo Rochester. The after effects of which were significant swelling of the bones, resulting in back, hip and thigh pain that was relieved with heavy doses of steroids over the past three weeks.
Following another PSA test on Thursday, June 16 (now 7.0) there was no question we needed to be as aggressive as possible. So Dr. Kwon immediately coordinated with the Andreas Cancer Center at Mayo Mankato to concurrently begin chemotherapy (over a period of approximately four months) along with an initial injection of anti-hormone medication being delivered that day (but rather than for six months, this time I’ll receive it for two years).
HOW CAN YOU LEARN MORE?
Don’t hesitate to ask, we are very comfortable sharing with you my experiences and status (perhaps in more detail than you like). Over the course of this journey, my wife Ginger and I have shared openly and many of you follow our regular posts on CaringBridge. For those of you that do visit, you know how inspiring and educating Ginger’s posts are; if you aren’t currently following us there and would like to, we invite you to log on (https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/jonathanzierdt). All of the generous media coverage and stories that have been produced are able to be found via our site as well.
And please, I encourage you to share accurate information about my current “cancer status.” Should people ask you questions, or you hear incomplete or inaccurate information, you have the Zierdt’s “permission” to talk openly about my current status and treatment. Remember, all of this is in the name of not merely treatment, but the pursuit of a cure.
With the deepest of gratitude,
president & CEO
Greater Mankato Growth, Inc.