Written by Jaleesa West*
I have High-Risk HPV. I was diagnosed three years ago. I’ve shared my story with those closest to me. My exes know. At times, it feels like I’ve had to come out all over again. It’s especially difficult to deal with because my ex recently received an abnormal pap smear. Horrified didn’t begin to describe my feelings. Because of me, there is no longer a clean break between us. We’ll forever be tied by this.
In 2012, on my first visit with a new gynecologist, I was told I had it. I went to get a second opinion from my regular family doctor and was told nothing showed up on the pap smear. I assumed that this was the correct diagnosis and kept it moving.
I met my ex later that year and life went on. During my annual visit with my family doctor in 2014, she found that I did, in fact, have it. I was upset and confused. How did last year’s test miss it? A few weeks later, a colposcopy was performed and I was diagnosed with mild cervical dysplasia (Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia – CIN I).
A few months later, the ex and I parted ways. It was hard because I really wanted things to work. We went to counseling, answered relationship questionnaires, and scheduled “us time.” All the things you’re supposed to do to make the relationship work. But when it’s done, it’s done. We ended it after a year. Even after the break up, we lived together for an additional five months.
I want to provide her with some answers, but all I have is a lot of regurgitated information from the CDC, the NIH, and whoever else decides it’s the hot topic of the day. More than anything, I wish I could share with her how to live with this disease. Problem is, I haven’t figured that much out for myself.
At the moment, there is no sure fire way to avoid getting it other than abstaining.
And even then, there’s a chance of contracting it by skin to skin contact.
How will this affect my already non-existent love life? I’m not seeing anyone. I haven’t even tried to pursue a relationship after her. Some might say that’s probably best. Honestly, I’m not ready for the rejection. I’m not ready to have the talk. So in the meantime, I’m looking for a cure. I’ve had two painful biopsies and I pray there won’t be any more in my future.
Mostly, I hope that love won’t look past me because of this. I know that there will be gloves and dental dams in my future, but I can handle that. I just hope my next lover can too.
There aren’t many stories from lesbians (black or otherwise) giving their day-to-day accounts of living with this disease, so I’ve started a Tumblr account. I need to know how to move forward. There’s a chance that my body will fight it off, and I am working on taking better care of my health. But what do I do in the meantime? As you can see, there are more questions than answers. My hope is that we can open communication and remove the stigma, considering 80% of us either have it, have had it, or will have it at some point in our lives.
If you’ve been diagnosed with HPV and would like to share your story with me or have questions, please check out http://lifereconsidered.tumblr.com or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. All information shared will be kept confidential.
Jaleesa West is not the author’s real name. She preferred to remain anonymous.