Previously on WTF, Are You Kidding Me?!:
Two and a half weeks ago I found out I have HPV.
After doing some research I wrote an essay (HPV: The Cockroach of STDs) to deal with the initial influx of overwhelming emotions.
Being an asexual lesbian I found this very surprising.
People who don’t have sex aren’t supposed to get sexually transmitted diseases.
I knew it could be passed just from skin-to-skin contact and thought I must have contracted it recently, as, well, STDs and STIs all have short shelf-lives, right?
So I must have shaken hands with someone.
This was my logic.
I wash my hands regularly, though, I figured…
But I did more research and learned you can’t get it from holding hands or hugging.
The Good News that Was the Bad News
An idea had been in the back of my mind, but I’d dismissed it because it seemed impossible.
I’d had one experience… Well, one fifth of an experience, really, with my husband, where no bodily fluids were exchanged.
But there had been one other experience when I was seventeen that was unconsensual. Bodily fluids had been exchanged. That guy was older than I was, not in great health, and had had many sexual partners, all things that make a person more likely to carry the virus.
When the thought had first occurred to me I thought, ‘That was twenty years ago and it was one time. If I was going to develop something it would have happened by now.’
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ‘cancer often takes years, even decades to form after a person contracts HPV.’
If you’re looking for the good news in there, it’s that at least I worked out where I got it from. The bad news is it was that guy.
[And before you want to murder him—he died a few years ago of natural causes unrelated to HPV.]
The Vice Versa (When the Bad News is the Good News)
So this has kinda sucked.
Every time I have to go for my super duper regular pap smears now I get to think about a person and time of my life I thought I had put behind me.
And if I ever have to have cancerous cells removed through one of the various delightful procedures—he’ll be with me then, too.
I have learned how supportive my friends are. One friend in particular I’d been flirting with–after I told her I said I was scared she wouldn’t like me anymore.
She verbally kicked my butt about it, starting with ‘Are you fucking kidding me?!’ Then she laid several paragraphs of truth on me. She said exactly what I needed to hear.
Shitty situations will show you who the cool people are.
So that’s something good that’s come of this.
And I’m glad I know before I go out there and do get into anything physical with anyone for reasons that will become apparent in the next section.
Other Important Information
Because I’ve been learning all the things, I thought I’d share.
This information comes from the American Cancer Society and the CDC.
- There are 100+ strains of HPV—most are harmless and will be cleared by the body without the person knowing they have it.
- The strains that cause cancer are not the strains that cause warts.
- HPV can be spread through vaginal, anal or oral sex.
- There are no tests to determine if a person is a carrier. The only way to find out if you have it is for cervix-owners to have pap smears. That will detect if you have abnormal cells on your cervix that could possibly cause cancer. There is no test for men.
- If you’re diagnosed with one of the strains that can cause cancer, you will go in for more frequent pap smears. If cells become cancerous, those cells will be removed but you will still have HPV and it could become cancerous again years later. (Or it may not ever develop into cancer.)
- Though there are no tests for men, they can still carry it and pass it along and it can cause cancer of the throat, tongue and tonsils, as well as penis and anus. Women have anuses, too, obviously, and it can also cause cancer of the vagina and vulva. Those are less common, but it’s not just the cervix.
- Safety: It is passed through skin-to-skin contact so even using condoms, gloves and dental dams won’t completely protect you but are still really good ideas since you don’t know if you’re a carrier, or if the other person is and they don’t even know it. Since it may not develop for years after the fact it’s not exactly a person’s fault if they accidentally give you something there’s no test for.
- Get your kids vaccinated if they are 11-12.
- Get the vaccine yourself if you’re under 26. It won’t work if you’ve already caught the virus, but if you haven’t, you will be vaccinated against it and won’t be thinking, ‘What kind of bullshit is it that I have to worry about cancerous cells on a part of my body I don’t use for anything? I don’t want kids and I don’t have sex.’
I mean, damn. My mother had stomach cancer when I was a toddler. With my sense of humor I’d be like, ‘Hey, me and my stomach had have some good times. At least I’ve got some use out of it.’
But my cervix? Talk about utter nonsense.
As mentioned in my previous writing about HPV, I did get an HPV plush from Giant Microbes:
You can also get your own plush here and support the site.