I went through this phase immediately after my diagnosis. Of course, there are worse things. I remember sitting in my office, clutching a phone with sweaty palms and hoping for it to be anything BUT an STD. I was a good girl, I told myself...and things like that don't happen to good girls. It was one of those moments, that in retrospect, truly made me realize how much calling people who test negative for std/sti's clean had corrupted my thinking. And how much it was now affecting my self image. I remember fearing that I'd never find someone to love me, that I was tainted, that it was my punishment for pre-marital sex...the works.
Three months later, I had a follow up pap. Still had lesions. A week later, a colposcopy. I don't remember the specifics anymore...but I do remember my doctor saying "1" was normal and "5" was cancer and I was a "4, for and a half" in abnormalities. I was scheduled for a cryotherapy treatment.
I also met my now husband around this time. How's this for a relationship start?
After a few cocktails, one night, when I knew we were heading down the path of sexcapades: "So...we gotta talk." What an opening line. Really, when you think about it, and my expression...he must have thought I had four nipples and a vagina with teeth. It sounded that grave...so serious, it's almost absurd.
"Have you heard of HPV?--it's an STI that they can't test men for, but you have probably been exposed to, like 70% of the population has been or will be or something... and it really only affects women...and well, I have it, and it's the kind that can cause cancer not warts and--" it all came out in a rush. I don't think I breathed at all through it. He just stared at me. Then held my hand.
"Thanks for telling me. But it's a non-issue for me, really...I don't know if I've been exposed, and even if I haven't been.. I don't think I would care where you are concerned."
I was shocked. I thought I had signed the death certificate on our relationship. I thought it was doomed. That I was tainted, and that once he'd find out, he'd run. Instead? He went to the cryotherapy appointment with me. He held my hand while the doctor froze my cervix. He brought me tea, slept over at my apartment after to make sure I was okay. He went in for a full battery of testing to see if he had acquired any std/sti's.
Later, when he was talking to me about the night I told him? He joked with me saying "warts wouldn't have mattered, either, just so you know. It's the person that matters..." It was then that I laughed...but realized that even being diagnosed with an std, I was still judging, still ranking...like curable STD/STI's were the best to get. Like why couldn't I have gotten Chlamydia or Gonorrhea? Why did it have to be something incurable? Just treatable? What a huge stigma. That comment really taught me something, two somethings, actually: this guy really cared about me and that I really needed to pay attention to myself...and how I might think and what I say might affect others self images...like mine was so traumatized with the diagnosis of something like HPV. That by implying I didn't have warts or anything was like saying I wasn't that bad...even though I hadn't said that out loud.
I'm much more careful about what I say, now.
A year of pap smears every three months (that was fun, let me tell you). Three years of every six months. And today? Today I got a letter.
"Dear Mrs. Kayeyem,
I am writing to inform you of your recent results:
Your pap was normal again. It's back to regular yearly paps for you! :)
Please feel free to contact me with any additional questions or concerns.
Dr. Who Writes Notes to patients Herself"
The point: STD's/STI's don't make you dirty. You aren't a bad person if you acquire one. Not getting one doesn't making you better than others, or cleaner, or anything of that nature. We're all people and we all have our own situations, fears, mountains to overcome. Am I STI-negative? Regardless of what any test may show..my answer will always be no. I'm not. I've had one. And you know? That's okay. Having an STD? And knowing that it can be okay? That's the real light at the end.
That, and not having to have appointments involving speculums so frequently. ;)