We’re happy to introduce Victoria, our newest guest blogger. She follows our usual form of sarcasm topped with an important message!
There’s a certain stigma when it comes to talking about sexual health. While it’s really no one’s business, it could prompt judgement and assumptions on how sexually active (or inactive) you are or how you practice safe sex. I’ve had HPV once in my past life and it was treated as ‘no big deal’ by my gynecologist – disappearing like a common cold after another routine visit. It was after the second time, when additional biopsies were required, that I realized this was much more serious. I wasn’t sure how to talk about it with those I care about most.*
The first common misconception I realized is that transmitting HPV was possible even in cases where you use a condom. In fact, HPV infections are so common that nearly all men and women will get at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives. The scary part is that there can be no symptoms and men can be carriers as well. (of course, another burden on women to regularly check for this as men currently cannot be tested!)
Corsets are now optional, Your Health is Not
When my regular pap came back as abnormal, a colposcopy biopsy, cervical biopsy, and endometrial biopsy were required. (I’ll spare the details, google if you dare!) The results of the cervical biopsy showed evidence of grade 2/3 dysplasia cells that could lead to cervical cancer if left unattended. A LEEP procedure was scheduled to remove those unruly bastards on the day after Valentine’s Day. (Don’t forget a “get well enough to have sex again soon” card with my flowers!)
I would also need the endometrial biopsy while under anesthesia for the LEEP. My gynecologist was unable to get an adequate cell sample during the original colposcopy as I was screaming in pain. (There is a wide range of pain tolerance for women when it comes to these biopsies, so if you’re not as lucky to have a kind and understanding doctor as myself, do yourself a favor and find a new doctor!)
Being past of age of eligibility for the HPV vaccine, things started to feel a bit scarier. I analyzed all the extreme cases (please just leave me my precious ovaries!). It wasn’t so much about the idea of being unable to have kids, but the heightened awareness of feeling older, like I was falling apart. On my way to the pharmacy to pick up a pill in preparation for surgery, I was amused when dodging in between the men and women rushing to buy beautiful bouquets to bring home to their lovers when ironically, all I could think about was what my lady parts would be encountering.
Enduring Cupid’s Scalpel
As the anticipated day arrived, I was anxious about every scenario that could pop up in my head. This was my first time getting “surgery”, so much of this was uncharted territory for me. As I confided in the nurse putting in my IV, she said to me, “You’re still young, It is scary… just wait until you get older and the health issues become things you have no control over”. My mind then quickly raced with thoughts about hysterectomies, miscarriages, breast cancer… the harsh reality about all the hardships women face on top of a unforgiving healthcare system.
Once I reached the anesthesiologist, my answer to ‘how are you doing?’ quickly became ‘terrified’. He had a warm smile and chuckled ‘fair enough’ in response. He kindly explained what would happen next, putting me at ease, knowing the worst I’d encounter is the world’s best nap. The last interaction I remember was the mask over my face, and laughing at what was probably not even a remotely funny joke.
The great news is the results came back, and there were no further issues! The abnormal cells were limited to a small area that were removed during the LEEP. The endometrial biopsy was negative. The worse has been feeling like I have an itch that I can’t scratch and mild PMS cramps that a quick Aleve can solve.
Invest in Your Sexual Health
So why did I feel compelled to share this experience? Well, for one, Shari and The Strap Saver have been BIG supporters of women’s health and cancer research. Shari has always inspired me to make my health a priority and be kind to myself (and I mean, this is American health care… prevention is the name of the game). But, by no means is my story anything spectacular or heroic compared to what many women have gone through. I’m very fortunate that I have the opportunity to take preventive measures, as many women cannot afford that chance.
There’s still a stigma around women’s sexual health… you don’t need to make an apology or confession, it’s about fostering open communication for encouraging support in each other’s health and well being. And I’m certainly no expert.. do you research! Women’s health will continue to be an important topic and we need to ignore the stigma, the judgement, and continue to support each other however we can.
* I know I have the love and support of my partner and close friends. For the record, they are the least judgmental people I know. It’s my own silly insecurities sometimes that get in the way.❤️