“Do people ever complain about you showing FoxNews?” I asked, hoping I wasn’t going to be the first.
“Oh yeah, all the time,” the dentist admitted.
“Good, that makes me feel better about moving here.”
“Would you like the remote to change it?”
“Absolutely.” Crisis averted.
As a new patient, I was asked to fill out an extensive information form asking everything to when I lost my first tooth to my illicit drug use to my past surgeries to whether or not I had ever been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease. On this question, I paused.
So why did the dentist need to know about STD’s ? I know that often HIV rears its ugly head in the form of thrush (an opportunistic oral candidiasis infection), but that was not the three-lettered goblin I am dealing with. What I have is HPV—the Human Papillomavirus. HPV is spread through contact and linked to cervical cancer. Recently, it was also declared as a contributor to throat cancer in both men and women. According to the National Cancer Institute, “More than half of sexually active people are infected with one or more HPV types at some point in their lives.” I have been carrying it since my early twenties.
Last year, it had morphed into atypical squamous cells. I had to have a loop electrosurgical excision procedure to remove the potential cancer-causing culprits. The doctor explained, gesturing to his nose, “We’re going to have to remove the tip.” I was completely mortified. No way you’re removing my nose! Then, I realized that the cervix is essentially the same size and shape. He was using his nose as an example. Sigh of relief. After the procedure, he clarified, “We actually had to remove this much,” and made a hacking motion from the beginning of the bridge to where the nostrils meet the face. He continued, “If the cells return, you’re looking at a full hysterectomy.” (Read Put that Apple Down, Bitch! for more)
Because of this experience, despite it having nothing to do with the day’s dental care, I opted to put a big, bold check in the box declaring that I indeed have an STD. Why? Because HPV is now entirely preventable through a simple vaccination. And, if through telling people that I have the disease and the repercussions from it, I can open the dialogue and convince one mother, sister or daughter to protect their loved ones or themselves, it is worth the slight bit of discomfort.
The main argument against the HPV vaccination seems to be that it will somehow give girls a false sense of security and promote sexual activity. And, I know that there are those who will argue, “You’re not a mother, you have no right telling me to vaccinate my daughter.”
No, I am not a mother, but I am a woman who understands what living with HPV is like and I wouldn’t wish it on any other female, especially when it can be easily prevented.
So when the argument continues with, “She could become promiscuous. She could get pregnant…or worse.”
My reply is simply, “Or she could become cancerous. She could NEVER be able to become pregnant…or worse.”