Day 4,385 – RO Three-month Follow-up

My somewhat premature three-month follow-up was last Thursday, 10 November, and went about as expected. On the whole, he was pleased with where I’m at.

I reviewed several things with him.

First, we talked about my PSA being 0.05 ng/mL both in September and again in November. He was pleased with the number and didn’t think there was any significance in the fact that the two numbers taken about six weeks apart were the same. He chalked the reading up to the hormone therapy and said that at this early stage, my PSA was “meaningless” in determining the effectiveness of the radiation. We’ll have to see what it is a year or two down the road to determine that. No big surprise there.

He did say that I shouldn’t panic if the PSA number starts to go up, as long as it isn’t a huge leap or is increasing rapidly. He expected it may go up a bit and then stabilize and stay at a certain level as the hormone therapy wears off. Time will tell if he’s right.

I mentioned that my urinary frequency was back to pre-zapping levels, with far fewer trips to the toilet in the middle of the night (0-3). The urgency was slightly elevated from my pre-zapping days, but is tolerable as long as I act on it.

The one concern that I really wanted to talk about—and is the one I feared the most about radiation—were bowel issues.

The week before I went on my mini-vacation to Kings Canyon National Park, something was afoot in my bowels. I was having three to five bowel movements a day for about four days when I normally get by with one. I was thinking, “Oh, crap! Is this from the radiation??” I was concerned enough that I almost canceled my trip, but when things calmed down the weekend before, I decided to go ahead.

In the last two weeks or so, I’ve been suffering from what I call IBH—Itchy Butt Hole. (The nurse doing the prescreen interview cracked up when I told her that.) I also seem to be gassier than usual, and my diet hasn’t changed to cause an increase in gas production.

The doctor was a bit puzzled by this development, suggesting that the radiation may have irritated hemorrhoids and that a topical cream may help resolve the IBH. He was stumped by the increased gas and suggested that, if it persists, I talk to a GI doctor. He did say, however, if radiation had damaged my bowels, it would be more substantial than what I’m experiencing, so that was good to hear. Even though, I’m going to track this closely to see if things continue to worsen.

In the end, the radiation oncologist was quite pleased with where I’m at. We’ll follow-up in six months.

I have an appointment with the urologist on 13 December 2022, so we’ll see what he has to say and map out a PSA testing schedule.

Be well!

Header image: Premature Desert Blooms, Anza-Borrego State Park, near Borrego Springs, California

Month 143 – Much Improved

I don’t know where the time has gone. It’s hard to believe that we’re approaching two months since ending the salvage radiation therapy.

On the whole, things have improved significantly for me since then. My energy level has returned to pre-zapping levels, except when I’m stupid and stay up way too late at night (that’s something I can control). That’s been a good thing because I’ve been able to get out and enjoy the world again.

As far as the urinary control issues are concerned, they’re much improved, too. I opted to stop the Tamsulosin (Flomax) near the end of September, and that seems to have helped. My frequency is greatly improved. During the day, I can go several hours between runs to the toilet, and at night, I’m only have to empty my bladder one to three times a night. That’s a godsend.

The urgency still can be a bit of an issue. There are times where I don’t have much time to get to the toilet if I let things go a little too long. On a related note, since stopping the Tamsulosin, my leakage / incontinence has improved as well, even with the urgency. That’s a positive, too.

I had a video appointment with my primary care physician about the pain I’ve been experiencing in my back. In short, even though things seems to be slowly improving (even after the call with him on 26 September), he still wants me to have an MRI to see what may be going on. That’s scheduled for this Friday.

I’m not exactly sure how the hormone therapy works as you approach the end of the six month dosage period, but I’m guessing its effects may linger another few months beyond the end of the dosage. Again, I’ve been blessed in that my only real side effect has been the mild fatigue—no weight gain and no hot flashes. (Even though all three of my doctors say my back pain is unrelated to the hormone therapy, I’m still not convinced. There’s a first for everything, right???)

The radiation oncologist’s office wouldn’t schedule my three-month follow-up appointment until the end of October when they had a better handle on the doctor’s November schedule. I’ll get my PSA checked again in November in advance of that appointment, and I have a follow-up with the urologist on 13 December.

It’s good to be back into a more normal state after all of that. Let’s hope that there are no long-term radiation side effects that start popping up two to five years down the road.

Header Image: Autumn leaves, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Month 142 – Two Weeks After SRT Ended

After a hectic summer, it’s about time that I get back on my regular posting schedule of at least one post a month on the 11th of each month.

There’s good news and there’s less good news.

The good news: On the fatigue front, that’s been slowly but surely abating and my energy levels are improving steadily. I still have my moments, but it’s much better than it used to be. I expect that my energy levels will be back to pre-radiation therapy levels by the end of next week at the rate they’re going. Also decreasing are the number of trips to the toilet during both the day and night (about 2-3 trips each night). Hopefully, there’s still room for improvement there.

The less good news: The pain in my back, unfortunately, has intensified. Initially, it was a low-grade ache with occasional spikes in pain if I moved in an unexpected way. Now, it’s really become a more constant and prevalent ache, and it takes even less movement to set off a spike in pain. I’m guessing that’s related more to the ADT than anything else, and I’m trying to get some answers from my medical team.

Barring any hiccups, my plan is to get my blood drawn for my first PSA test during ADT and after SRT on Tuesday, 13 September. It’s probably premature (but that’s what the urologist ordered), and I have no idea what to expect. The ADT has had four and a half months to do something to my PSA, but the SRT has had only two weeks. Anyone care to guess?

As a refresher, my PSA was 0.36 ng/ml on 18 April 2022; the ADT was administered on 3 May 2022; and SRT ran 7 July – 26 August 2022. I’ll post the results as soon as I have access to them.

I have my follow-up appointment with the urologist on Tuesday, 20 September, and I just remembered that I need to call the radiation oncologist’s office to get on their schedule for late November or early December.

Be well!

Header Image: Oak Creek near Sedona, Arizona

Day 4,315 – A Week After SRT Ended

If you recall my last update, I was all abuzz with energy on my first day after salvage radiation therapy ended. Well, that didn’t last long.

Sunday and Monday I was pretty much knocked out with fatigue, and Tuesday wasn’t much better. The rest of the week saw slight improvements with each passing day, but you would have still found me taking a cat nap here or there.

The urinary frequency is still there, meaning I’m still running to the toilet four to six times a night which is annoying. But there has been another change, and I’m not sure if it’s a result of the radiation, the Flomax (Tamsulosin), or a combination of both.

Post-surgery, pre-radiation, I would get the urge to empty my bladder and I’d have time to make it to the toilet and then consciously start the flow to empty my bladder. Since the radiation, the time between my brain receiving the urge to empty my bladder and the time I need to be at the toilet is much shorter. It also seems that my ability to control the start of the flow is lessened to a degree, meaning it starts flowing on its own. That’s led to one minor accident where I was just a few seconds shy of getting to the toilet.

I’m not overly concerned about this at the moment, as it’s still early after the radiation ended. Plus, it may be the Flomax that’s contributing to this as well, and the radiation oncologist said it would be acceptable to stop taking it around the end of September if I felt it wasn’t helping me with the urinary frequency. However, if it continues beyond that, I may have to get one of those “Where’s the toilet?” apps for my phone. 🙂

This morning, I was surprised by blood on the toilet paper after my morning constitutional. I’m pretty sure it’s from irritated hemorrhoids rather than from something deeper inside. It’s something to keep an eye on going forward.


You may recall that, back in June about five weeks after I received my Eligard injection, I was noticing a dull musculoskeletal ache in the middle of my back. Through the summer, that stayed pretty consistent—just a minor ache in the background not causing any issues. It was tolerable and I didn’t think much of it. In the last few weeks, that’s changed.

The ache is more intense and a bit more widespread across my back than when it first appeared. Plus, I can have brief shots of acute pain if I move suddenly or twist my body in a weird way (like after unexpectedly bumping into something). It’s more like a muscle spasm response than anything else. But it can and does impact how the way I walk (a little more gingerly) and how I stand up.

Of course, hormone therapy is known to contribute to musculoskeletal issues, and one of the listed side effects of Flomax is “body aches.” Perhaps they’re additive.

Of course, my mind also has to go down the path of possible distant metastases to the spine or ribs even though it’s extraordinarily unlikely given where my PSA was at going into SRT (0.36 ng/ml). Still, it’s a conversation that I’m going to have with my urologist in my meeting on 20 September.

Stay tuned for more to come.

Be well!

Image: Salton Sea, California

Day 4,308 – What a Difference

What a difference a day makes!

I don’t know whether it’s the adrenalin rush of having finished my radiation therapy still lingering, or it’s something else, but I’ve had more energy today than I’ve had in several weeks. And I’m not complaining!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still firing on about six cylinders at best, but it’s 5 p.m. and I’ve been up since about 7 a.m. and haven’t had the need for a nap or rest period yet today.

I have to wonder if it was subconscious stress that was doing me in the last few weeks of treatments. I would get overly obsessive about the bladder filling routine, and particularly frustrated if things didn’t go quite to plan—especially when I came up short and had to delay. I felt as though I wasn’t holding up my end of the bargain and that would add stress. (Just an uneducated arm-chair psychologist’s theory.)

Speaking of bladders, without the 1.5 to 2 liters of water I would be drinking every morning, my trips to the toilet have been far fewer today, and only three trips last night. That’s another positive sign.

I’m sure there may be setbacks, but let’s hope this trend continues. I’m so ready to get back into a more normal routine. Besides, the dust bunnies 🐇 in my house have turned into dust elephants 🐘 over the last few weeks because of my fatigue, and I need to go on a deep cleaning safari. That, or buy them some peanuts, say they’re my pets, and call it a day. 🤔

My day has been great. I hope yours has, too!

Zapping is Done!

The final zapping session is history. Hallelujah!

It’s important to me to recognize the staff of the UCSD Health Radiation Oncology – Chula Vista clinic. They turned what was initially a scary experience (for me) into something that was much more pleasant and positive. They radiation therapists were great coaches, provided compassionate care, and endured my stupid puns and jokes. The nurses were equally compassionate, thoroughly answered all of my questions, and helped assuage my fears in the process. To all of them: Thank you!

I went out for a celebratory brunch with my friend who was there for the first session and listened to me whine throughout the process.

Now it’s time to let my body recover from seven weeks of being stuck in a giant microwave oven. Hopefully, it recovers quickly and I get back to a more normal routine. Of course, we may not know for another year whether it was truly effective. Fingers crossed.

The effects from the hormone therapy will cloud the results of the radiation for quite a while. The six month dose will last into October (and beyond) and, if my PSA has, in fact, dropped, we won’t know whether it’s the ADT or the radiation (or both) that caused it. Realistically, we probably won’t know whether the radiation was successful until late next spring or even summer.

Enjoy your weekend! I know I will.

Zapping: The Final Week

Last weekend, I ran out to Cabrillo National Monument where I used to volunteer, just to hang out and chat with some of the volunteers there. It was a great visit and I felt quite energized while I was there. But then I discovered something.

There definitely is benefit in forcing yourself to get out and enjoy a lunch with a friend, a walk along the beach, or just a drive through the country. It is energizing while I’m doing it. But what I’ve noticed is that the fatigue kicks in much harder and much faster than if I’m just hanging out at home.

I could tell near the end of my conversation with my fellow volunteer that the fatigue was coming on fast, and that it was time to go home. When I got home, I was out for the count for a couple of hours after. Not fun.

Monday’s zapping session was dicey. I started drinking my liter of water at 8:30 a.m. and finished it at 9:05 a.m., well in advance of my 9:45 a.m. appointment. As I was leaving the house at 9:30 a.m., I felt pretty good about my bladder fullness, but once I got to the clinic, that feeling of fullness subsided substantially. I told the technician that I though I was borderline and we agreed to take another patient ahead of me. “It will take about ten minutes.” Famous last words.

Long story, short, it was nearly half an hour later when they put me on the table, and by this point I was ready to burst. They even put an absorbent pad on the table and a plastic urinal bottle on the counter “just in case.” Fortunately, neither were needed, the session was completed successfully, and there was no accident.

Word of advice to those managing their bladder fullness timing: Allow a cushion for delays.

When I got home, I was totally spent and spent the entire day in various stages of rest. Ditto for Tuesday. (Hence my Wile E. Coyote post!) Wednesday went as planned, although I was at about 60%-70% bladder fullness.

Thursday’s session went a bit awry. It actually started around 2 a.m. Thursday when I made one of my five runs to the toilet. After crawling back into bed, I just could not fall asleep again. Too many things running through my pea-sized brain kept me awake. I finally dozed off around 4:30 a.m. Ugh.

When I got up, I wanted to avoid a repeat of Wednesday, so I started drinking water as soon as I got out of bed around 7 a.m., and I started drinking my liter of water a full thirty minutes earlier than I normally start. When I got to the facility, I could tell I wasn’t ready, so we skipped me and brought another patient in. Fortunately, that was only about a fifteen minute delay which filled my bladder nicely.

I met with the radiation oncologist after the session Thursday, and we talked about the fatigue and urinary frequency. He said that the fatigue will likely last for about two more weeks after the end of the treatment and then I should see a noticeable improvement. He recommended that I stay on the Flowmax through the end of September to help with the frequency. We’ll schedule a follow-up session for three months from the end of treatment, so I’m guessing late November or early December.

Barring any technical issues, tomorrow morning’s session will be my last. Woo-hoo! I’ll post about that separately.

Be well!

Zapping Session #30 – Week Update

Week six of seven is done! Woo-hoo! I am soooo ready for this to be over.

Last weekend, I got out of the house for a bit just for a change of scenery, but those excursions were short-lived because the fatigue was kicking in. I stopped by Silver Strand State Beach to just hang out by the ocean and let the sound of the surf be a calming influence. But after only twenty minutes, a wave of fatigue came over me and I could barely keep my eyes open, so I went home. It’s funny how it can come on so suddenly.

Monday’s session went well, and Tuesday I could tell that my bladder wasn’t quite where it needed to be, so we let another patient go ahead of me. At the end of the session, the technician commented it was worth the wait because my bladder was “perfect.”

One thing that popped up for the first time on Tuesday morning was that I noticed a small amount of blood on the toilet paper after my bowel movement. Needless to say, that concerned me considerably. I had a second bowel movement and there was no blood evident then.

I spoke with the nurse after my zapping session and she said that it’s not out of the ordinary this to happen for being at this point in the treatment. I mentioned that I have had a history of hemorrhoids that would bleed on occasion, and she said the radiation could irritate them, too. She encouraged me to make sure that my stool was soft, either through diet or stool-softeners. There hasn’t been a repeat occurrence since.

Wednesday’s session was weird. I went in feeling as though my bladder was full and after the treatment, the technician said it was barely into the treatable category and encouraged me to start drinking earlier. That frustrated me because I’ve been hydrating before going to bed, drinking a bit each time I go to the toilet (six times the night before!—so much for the Flomax working), and even starting to drink when I first wake up. Grrr.

Thursday’s session went well, cutting it almost a tad too close with bladder. Afterwards, I met with the radiation oncologist (RO) who just flew in from his vacation in Bavaria the night before.

We talked about my fatigue and how the Flomax doesn’t seem to be doing much of anything positive for me yet (it can take a week to kick in). We’ll keep an eye on things this week and beyond, although he said that the urinary issues could continue for a month or so after treatment ends.

It was interesting that, without prompting, he mentioned that it’s really the last few sessions that really do the most damage to the cancer cells and it’s not wise to stop early. I’m guessing that there are those who are tired of the side effects, as I am, who ask to cut the treatment short. Not me. I’ve come this far, I’ll finish it off.

We also talked about the follow-up plan once treatment is ended. In a nutshell, he’ll see me again in three months, near the end of November and review my PSA and if there are any lingering side effects. He agreed that these first few PSA tests will reflect the effects of the androgen deprivation therapy far more so than they will the results of the salvage radiation. He said it will be a year or more before we really know if the radiation was successful. Not a surprise to me, but nice to have it confirmed.

Even though I’ve started drinking my water earlier than I have been, I could tell that my bladder wasn’t ready for this morning’s session, so we let another patient go ahead of me while my bladder filled. No biggie. If I had another five minutes on the table, I would have fallen asleep. (Thanks, fatigue!)

Time for a nap. 😴💤

Common Steroid Could Improve Prostate Cancer Radiotherapy Outcomes

A link to this article showed up in one of my prostate cancer newsletters that I receive. There’s a link to the original study report in the article, and it’s way over this layman’s head to make heads or tails of it in a brief read-through before my zapping session.

I didn’t dig deep enough to see if this applies equally to primary radiation therapy and salvage radiation therapy (because it’s not yet approved for use and too late for me).


A new study suggests that unwanted side effects of radiation treatments for prostate cancer could be reduced by the common steroid betamethasone.

Source: Common Steroid Could Improve Prostate Cancer Radiotherapy Outcomes