Written by Jaleesa West*
What started out as an awkward date at a local bar turned after-hours clubbing, ended with me lying on the stairs inside her apartment with her hovering over me. She was ready to give me what I’d wanted the whole night. She wasn’t taking no for an answer and I didn’t want to say no, but I couldn’t let it go down.
How could I live with myself?
I stopped her as she began tugging at my pants. Whenever you start a sentence in the heat of the moment with “I have to tell you something,” be ready to end the night on a sour note. And that’s how the night (morning) ended. I told her that I have high-risk HPV. She was cool about it. But of course, nothing more will come of it now. She didn’t sign up for this and I’m not willing to beg for acceptance.
I was diagnosed three years ago. According to the Centers for Disease Control, this is the most common sexually transmitted infection and it’s spread by anal, vaginal or oral sex with someone who has the disease.
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 or precancerous cancerous cell growth on my cervix.
We Couldn’t Make It Work
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. After her, I haven’t even tried to pursue a relationship. 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.
Jaleesa West is not the author’s real name. She preferred to remain anonymous. Since the article was first published Jaleesa’s doctor has found her to be HPV-free.