There are certain ways that we look at ourselves. These ideas are shaped by the perspective we have, based on our experiences from our birth, throughout school, and into our early adulthood when we think we know, but soon find out we’re just as lost as ever. There are things I believe that I “know” about who I am and what I appear to be.
I am almost thirty years old.
I love animals.
I am tall.
I have pretty eyes.
I am messy.
I have big thighs.
I am tattooed.
I have a cute bum.
I make people laugh.
I like to drive.
I try to be kind and thoughtful.
I hold a grudge.
I can be mean when I’m hurt.
I love travel.
I am disorganized.
I aspire; to learn, and grow, and be bigger than who I am.
I am a daughter.
I am a mother.
I’ve always wished that I was a sister, but I am not one. Not really.
I have daddy issues.
I have soft skin.
I have a big heart.
My identity is something that shifts and changes shape as I age. It changed drastically as I became a mother, and then it changed again as I battled with depression. My sense of self can be different from day to day, even sometimes changing within a matter of hours. Who I am, or rather, who I believe myself to be, is not always cut and dry.
This week my perspective was changed when I was informed of a change in my health. I was taking part in a study about women’s health, and as such, my results have been looked into further than the normal pap tests would be for most women.
This week, the day after I got home from Ontario, I was diagnosed with a high risk form of HPV.
From a medical perspective, nothing has changed. I have the same body that I had two months ago, three months ago, a year ago. I am me; albeit a me who needs to go through some testing and possibly some procedures, I am just me. HPV is common, medically, and it’s commonly something that the body will take care of on its own. Unfortunately, my HPV is one of the 15 strains that are known to cause cervical cancer. What this means is that I have to be aware of the possibility and get my lady-tests done on time, every time. Medically, this doesn’t change me.
From an emotional perspective, it’s a different matter. I’m a progressive person. Even still, the stigma that came washing over me as someone who had now contracted a sexually transmitted infection was unnerving. On that first day, I felt ashamed. I was scared. I was nervous. Then I began to read and devour information, as I do. I spoke to the doctor quite a bit. I was that annoying person who wouldn’t go away because I really wanted to understand what this meant. Would I have genital warts at any point in my life because of this infection? Was it curable? How did this happen? She was great! She explained everything to me and I felt better, for the most part. At least I walked away knowing that I hadn’t changed. The main bullet point from our conversation was that the HPV was discovered because I had taken part in the study. Nothing had shown up on my regular pap test, but rather the diagnosis had been found through the extra testing my samples were put through. This is quite literally the earliest kind of detection, and that’s why we take part in regular pap tests, isn’t it ladies?
I’ve had to adjust to this idea, because it challenges what I thought I knew about my body. The truth is that I likely contracted this infection years and years ago, and that I may never see symptoms of it. My body may continue to work hard at suppressing the effects of HPV as it has been over time. Alternately, I may have to have treatment to any abnormal cells that are found when I go in for a colposcopy next month. There are possibilities of cancerous lesions in the future, and trouble conceiving if I was to endeavour to try and parent again after treatment. For now, there is no reason for me to worry or get ahead of myself. Only to allow myself to cope with this new part of my identity and be proactive in my own health by living well.