In January 2012, I went in for my annual pap-smear. I have been sexually active since I was 15 and had been tested every year since then with healthy results. Although years had passed from my first monogamous relationship and my viewpoints and lifestyle had shifted, I still fully expected everything would be normal.
A week after this appointment, I received a call from my doctor. I had produced an abnormal pap-smear, an “ASCUS” (atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance) had been reported in my test sample. Furthermore, I had been diagnosed with Human Papiloma Viruses #s 39 and 84, which had shown up as low-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions on my cervix.
I called my sister, hysterical. Not only had I JUST entered into a new closed relationship with someone, I had moved in with him and his family and now had the hard moment of letting him know that *SURPRISE!* I had not one, but TWO STIs. The worst part of it all, was that I had been so careless and irresponsible in my casual sexual dealings that I didn’t even know who had given it it me. Males, so far, cannot be routinely tested for the virus and therefore very seldom are aware that they may be carriers, especially of a strain that lies dormant and might produce no symptoms. I told my sister everything and bawled my eyes out. I felt like I had murdered someone; let her down; let my family down. Shamed my ancestors..shamed my entire culture. My religious background and all the Roman Catholic judgement I had been fed growing up about “girls who get these kinds of diseases” and “girls who can’t keep their legs shut” came flooding to the forefront of my mind.
Shame, fear…embarrassment…pride..anger, rage…blame, hopelessness…emptiness…denial, exhaustion..sorrow…more shame, regret..resentfulness…and finally: acceptance. Humility..compassion and connectedness. A sense of calm and peace with myself. Understanding and embracing of others.
Thankfully, HPV was all I caught. I could have gotten something much worse for all the times I chose to have sexual interaction without a condom. The shock of it all and the reality of my situation shocked me; stunned me, really. My test results slowed me down and forced me to be decisive and thoughtful. HPV saved me.
At the time, tho, it did not feel that way. In between bouts of uncontrollable crying and pushing my lover away in disgust and hatred of myself, I did as much research as possible and shared several conversations with my doctor. In my case, squamous cells found in my cervix had taken on an abnormal morphology but they had not yet become cancerous or developed into any other forms. My Dr. explained to me that these things were rather common in my age group and could potentially turn into cancer or warts at any time; or, more likely, they could go away entirely on their own and I had nothing to worry about.
My partner loyally took me in for the check-ups and we talked more together about what seemed like our deepest crisis. After a year of waiting and watching, my doctor and I decided that the viruses were not going to go away on their own (as they often do) and that the best course of action would be to remove them manually from my body.
We decided to freeze them off using a process known as “cryosurgery” in which the heat is drawn OUT of living tissue in order to result in frost-bite that kills that tissue and then sloughs off over time.
On February 6th 2013, I underwent this procedure.
The time since then has been blurry and the results afterward came back negative for HPV. Thanks to early detection and a supportive family and partner, I was able to overcome my own personal trauma. Although many people have indeed gone through so much worse than me, suffice it to say that I have grown thru it and learned my lesson.
Unprotected sex, along with all the temporary enjoyment of that oh-so-intimate connection, brings with it all the risks of STD/STI infection regardless of who you are or whom you are engaging with. Whether the behavior can be considered “prudent” or “promiscuous” is of no consequence to the bacteria and viruses that cause disease. STDs do not care if you are “in love,” “a virgin,” “homosexual,” “bisexual,” “male/female,” “young/old,” “black/white,” or in any kind of long term relationship. STDs do not care what kind of grades you get, what sort of job you hold, how many friends you have, or whether you wear stilettos or high-tops. STDs are very real and they affect all of us without discrimination of our character or shortcomings. We are all at risk and deserve to treat others AND ourselves, with concern, respect, and dignity — whatever our diagnosis.
I am a human being; I am a statistic. I am smart and beautiful and funny and confident and healthy and courageous. But I am no exception.
People ask me why “I don’t date” and why I don’t want to be close to people anymore. This is why. This is why when a guy comes up to be on first sight and asks me if we can take me to dinner, I say no. This is why when someone sits too close to me on the couch and I shy away and shove their arm off they get angry and walk away. This is why when I say NO, I DON’T WANT TO HAVE SEX WITH YOU, I absolutely mean it and will NOT be “hanging out with you” again if you can’t get to know me first and understand my lines and divisions.
I want my interactions to be meaningful. I want to “fall in love” and get to know someone in all the glory of their passions and celebrate with them while they grow beside me and encourage me while I’m also growing.. I want to stop adding on notches to the imaginary post beside my bed and start feeling special, and sacred, and dignified.
Let’s Be Wiser. Let’s treat ourselves better.
Let’s eat right, and play right, and work at things that matter.
Trusting yourself is not the same thing as “trusting no one.”
Choosing to use condoms if you don’t choose to abstain and trying to REALLY GET TO KNOW your partners before engaging in any kind of sex with them is not only much more lasting and meaningful, but can be fun and exciting to be more involved and intimate.
Perhaps most importantly, remember to get yourself regularly screened and tested before you share a new partner
Urge your friends to get tested as well and promote the idea that consensual, DELIBERATE sex is what is healthy and normal; and that is what will become accepted. ♥
I love you guys. Thanks for listening to yet another of my personal life stories. ♥
Lead great ones. ^_^