It’s been two months since I’ve posted. I’ve been busy between work and home and all the in-betweens. Today I felt the need to take a quick break at work to write my thoughts because I needed to write them and I wanted to share them.
This week the Cervivor community has lost two strong, beautiful women to cervical cancer. Jillian and Lisa were too young to leave this world, both younger than myself. They both struggled through cervical cancer, you know, the one so many commonly refer to as the “easy” cancer. The one that we’re so afraid to talk about because it’s on a cervix, not a breast or a testicle or a lung. And let’s not forget that it’s often caused by HPV, a sexually transmitted virus that makes women think others will consider them promiscuous because of the ridiculous stigma attached to it.
Please do not think I don’t support the discussion and research of the cancers I mentioned above, that is not my intention. All cancers deserve all the support they can get. Instead, my intention is to tell you that discussing cervical cancer is important and it is taking the lives of women young and old. Cervical cancer and HPV don’t give a shit if you’re 23 and single, 30 and married, or 58 and retired with grandchildren on the way. Cervical cancer and HPV don’t discriminate based on your skin color or religion or cultural background. They effect thousands of women every single day and no one wants to talk about it.
In our country we so easily discuss sex. We watch it on television and in movies, we see it on the covers of magazines and books. But we’re afraid to talk about HPV. If our gynecologist tells us we have a strain of high risk HPV, we maybe tell a loved one, a boyfriend or spouse, a confidant, but then we tuck it into our brains, afraid to tell anyone else because, you know, it came from having sex…or oral sex…or anal sex…or some kind of sexual touch. Here’s a little secret I want to let you in on… sex is a natural thing! Most of us have sex at some time in our lives, whether it’s with one person or five people or fifteen people (or more). And since HPV often has no symptoms at all, you don’t know who has it and who does not. Which is why 8 out of 10 women have a high risk strain of HPV at some time in their lives. 8 OUT OF 10!
I urge you, if you’re a woman whose tested positive for HPV, have had pre-cancerous cervical cells, or have had cervical cancer, do not be embarrassed or silent. Do not let society force you into believing that everyone will think you sleep around. Do not let society make you think that there’s something wrong with you. Talk to people, tell someone. I’m not saying announce it to the world; talk to people on your own terms. Tell your family, your girlfriends, and others you are close with. Tell them how common it is, especially the women in your life, and remind them how important it is to keep up with well-woman visits and to get Pap tests and HPV screenings. Our stories can potentially help someone else. By telling just one person who didn’t know anything about HPV or who’d been putting off well-woman visits with a gynecologist, you could guide them to getting a check up that may be life saving.
I’m writing this post quickly this morning, so my apologies if what I’ve written seems scatterbrained. Currently my mind is indeed scattered with sadness and grief for the women I’ve known and seen leave this world because of cervical cancer… the “easy” cancer.
To those who may actually read this post, if you’re a woman, make your well-woman appointment and ask for an HPV test and a Pap test if you haven’t recently had them. If you’re a man, urge your girlfriend or wife or adult daughters to keep up with their exams. But most of all, don’t be afraid to talk about HPV. There’s only a stigma attached to it if we allow one to be.
My heart goes out to the families of Jillian and Lisa, and all those we’ve lost to cervical cancer and other HPV-related cancers. As I write this post tears have come more than once for the loss of these two amazing women I was fortunate enough to know in just a small way, as well as others I have known since being diagnosed with cervical cancer myself in 2014.