Here’s a common yet scary scenario that happens to a lot of women; you go in for your routine pap smear. You go home and forget about it because those things have always gone perfectly fine and your doctor has never called about anything. You give yourself a gold star and some gelato for keeping up your annual appointments. Then fast forward a few weeks and you’re confused to see your gynecologist calling. She’s calling to tell you that your pap smear came back “Irregular.” The word “irregular” has never sounded so terrifying. How does your gyno sound so calm?! You run over the events of the past year in your head; every sexual partner and weird bus seat you ever sat on. Nothing odd comes up—how could this have happened!? Relax, says your gyno—it’s just HPV. You’re not sure if it’s “just” HPV, but you look it up and discover that, in fact, nearly 80 million Americans currently live with it. Here are the awkwardly true stages of finding out you have HPV and accepting it.
But I used condoms!
Why did I spend all of that money on condoms over the years if I was just going to catch something anyways! Oh—right. Pregnancy and incurable STDs and things like that. Okay—it’s good I used condoms.
I had the vaccine!
But it turns out you can still get certain strains of HPV even if you had the vaccine. They most likely will not be cancerous or cause warts, but those f*ckers can sneak through. Argh!
I have to tell my partner
Great. Now I need to tell my partner, and he’ll see me as dirty and irresponsible. I bet he’ll want to go back to using condoms and won’t go down on me — my life is over.
I don’t have to tell my partner
Wait a minute—if most people have HPV, and my partner definitely slept with other people before me, he probably has it. So I don’t need to tell him. Yeah—that’s pointless.
Well yeah, I have to tell him
Hey, don’t be an a**hole. It’s obviously bad to withhold the fact that you have an STD from the person you claim to love. Imagine if he got it and got warts from it—then you’d have to tell him you kept this secret.
At least it won’t be cancerous
There is some relief in the fact that it probably will not be cancerous. Very few incidents of HPV turn into cervical cancer, compared to the total incidents out there.
Of course, the people who got cancer probably thought that
Dummy! Don’t you think that’s exactly what the people who develop cervical cancer thought! Why should you be so lucky! Oh my gosh—I won’t see my children graduate high school. Wait, I don’t have children. And I’m being very dramatic.
Okay seriously; this is very easy to monitor
If my gynecologist if calm, then I should be, too. The cells are not precancerous or cancerous. We can monitor this through more frequent pap smears. Plenty of people get HPV, and it never turns into anything.
I bet it was Joe
I always had a feeling that one guy I slept with a few years ago looked a little gross. I knew that wasn’t just a mole down there. I should call him and yell at him!
That’s a bit judgmental; it could have been anyone
Hold on. I have HPV; am I shady? Do I look “gross?” No. And yet, I have HPV. It could have been literally anyone who gave this to me.
Maybe my partner gave it to me!
Oh my gosh! Why am I so quick to assume that I’ve had this for years? This may be brand new! My own partner who I sleep next to right now could have given this to me! That bastard.
I can’t be too judgmental considering I almost didn’t tell him
Hmmm… That may be a bit harsh of me considering the fact that a few minutes ago I truly considered not telling him I have it. I’m no angel over here.
I’m going to ask my friends if they have it
Yeah—that’ll make me feel better. I’ll call them and ask them if they have it. Oh look—most of them do. Okay. Hey, I’m just part of the club now! Okay maybe don’t get that excited.
Okay they all have it, so I’ll tell my partner that
I’ll tell my partner my friends all have it too, so he knows it’s not a big deal. Oops, was I not supposed to do that? My friends are pretty mad at me now.
I’ve forgotten all about it
Life seems to have gone on. It’s a few months later now, and my recent pap came back normal—no HPV cells apparent anymore. They may lie dormant, but I really understand now how common HPV is, and that I have a lot of control over its future.