November 19, 2020 - The COVID Year
Well, the February checkup went okay. My testosterone level went back down below 30 and my PSA went up to .08. Since then my PSA has gone up to .10 then .15 each of the remaining quarters. Of course I was hoping for less, but I am not in a state of panic yet. I guess I won’t be going off Lupron for the foreseeable future.
My diet has suffered thanks to COVID, but I also have some new rules on exercising thanks to Kathe.
Right after I wrote my last blog entry, we started to learn about the coronavirus. We were scheduled to go on a cruise in early March. We decided to take our chances when we heard the cruise line was taking precautions. We were screened verbally, our temperatures were taken before boarding and were told to be very careful about hand washing, getting close to people, etc. The cruise line and most passengers were taking it seriously. We were on board when the president had his first major press conference showing his reaction to the virus (that it was like the flu and was totally under control). I immediately knew the country was in trouble. I was expecting the more typical reaction of past presidents which would have been throwing all available resources at this serious potential public health problem. We left the ship on March 15th after cruising the Caribbean, expecting some screening at Customs and Immigration. There was no screening whatsoever. We headed home from Ft. Lauderdale, stopping at Costco on the way wearing our masks. There was an armed guard at the door and people were social distancing. There was no toilet paper!
We totally isolated ourselves for the next two weeks. Since then have gone out no more than twice per week to pick up supplies. In the early days we did curbside pickups and then, out of frustration because the pickers couldn’t read our minds for things like substitutions, I have been going off-hours to Walmart to do the shopping while always wearing a mask. It has been like that for the past 7 months. We have had very occasional outdoor social distance gatherings with the neighbors we see as treating this seriously, while avoiding those that seem to think they are invincible. We do walk the dog regularly. We now only have one dog, having lost our Winky in September to what we think was a stroke.
In April I had some congestion, so I had a COVID test. It was negative, so I chalked it up to allergies. That said, I have a belief that one of the things we always take when we think we might be exposed to people with colds or flu has given us a small level of protection against the virus. This is Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE) which has properties that help fortify the immune system. We take 10 drops in water once or twice per day. We do this especially when we travel. As a result we seldom get the dreaded “travel cold”. You might want to check this out.
Diet and Exercise
With spending so much time inside it has been tough to stay on the no sugar/low carb diet. I crave more snacks than normal and there is so little I can eat that is low carb. I end up eating way too much containing sugar substitutes and way too many processed foods. To make matters more challenging, Kathe is on a diet that is way too high in carbs, so I am fending for myself a lot. I know this has not helped my fight against rising PSA. The good news for Kathe is that she has lost 15 pounds since the beginning of the year.
In past posts I had mentioned my chest pains that no one seemed to be able to explain, even after a stress test and other attempts at diagnosis. I also had another problem with being “regular” as well. On a positive note, thanks to my primary care doctor, I took him up on a suggestion to eat 100% bran cereal instead of oatmeal for breakfast. Both problems have seemed to go away, so I think it may have been a combination of constipation and heartburn that led to chest pains. 100% bran is great!
As for exercise, Kathe and I now have a rule that we can’t watch TV unless we have exercised that day. This has forced both of us to exercise more. I am doing weight-bearing exercises and stretching and she is doing aerobics. I also walk the dog at least an hour per day. We have had our days without TV, however.
In April I had an experience I had in the past. I had a blockage in my urinary tract that was excruciatingly painful. I tried to get an emergency appointment with a local urologist without success, then with my primary care doctor without success, so I ended up in the emergency room where thankfully I passed a clot. This relieved the pressure and pain. The diagnosis was a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI). I started a course of Bactrim antibiotic with that stuff that turns urine into major staining agent (Cystex). I finally got an appointment with my primary care doctor and he switched the Bactrim antibiotic with one he said was much stronger (levofloxacin). After about 4 levofoxacin pills I very painfully pulled a tendon in my left arch while walking. Only then did I read that insert that came with the levofloxacin . It warned against tendon pulls! I immediately stopped the levofloxacin and went back to Bactrim.
Anyway, I was hoping that my May PSA rise in May was connected to the UTI. When my PSA went up in November, I ruled the UTI out.
I have to get back to a better diet. At the same time it is becoming time to get a new PET/CT scan to see if anything is happening with my metastases. I know I have a low PSA, but because I have always had a low PSA, things could be happening in there. I have been having some strange pains recently in my cranium and chest where I know I have mets.
I would like to get one of the new PSMA PET/CT scans that hasn’t been FDA approved. My doctor back in San Diego told me he thought he could get me into UCLA to have a PSMA scan, but I don’t live there anymore and there is COVID to consider. From my research the next closest available PSMA scan would be Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. Boy, is it hard to find things like this out!
I can get another Axumin scan which I have found by attending a seminar is in the same sensitivity ballpark as PSMA. Unfortunately my hospital in Charleston doesn’t do Axumin scans, but I am told that a more local hospital in Savannah does do them. The challenge will be how to get the right contacts and the prescription to get the full body scan. I am requesting the results of my last Axumin scan from San Diego in the meantime. Note: The most available PET/CT scan is far too insensitive to be of use to me.
In the Axumin seminar they said that the sensitivity is such that they can reliably find mets when the PSA is above .79 and even when it is as low as .50. Mine is .15, so there is a question as to whether, even with my classically low PSA, it is too early to be able to see anything with the scan. I really need to talk to an expert radiologist about this. My last scan was done when I had a PSA of .03 and the result was “no new growth”.
That’s enough for now…