Real People Stories – Quinn

I’m 23 years old, my favourite colour is pastel turquoise, and I had a papillomavirus HPV test last year. I learned this after having a routine STD smear test with my usual gynaecologist (I have since learned that some gynaecologists, including mine, no longer do smear tests before age 25).

Normally, I receive the STD results at home when I have nothing and don’t receive them when I have something. It’s been a month and a half since I got the results.

At first, I said to myself, “ Okay, it’s no big deal; it’s 

December, and it must be an HPV vacation for everyone .” Not at all. Two months later, having had the duct-taped with a cotton swab for my smear test, I received a letter saying there were suspicious cells on my cervix.

My first exams

I don’t tend to dramatise everything: I’m young, I knew it couldn’t be terrible. I told myself that there was little chance of me finding out that I was terminally ill.

The letter was accompanied by a note from my gynaecologist, who warned me that I needed an additional STD examination with another gynaecologist who does a colposcopy.

We remove your insides, and with alcohol, the HPV gynaecologist makes the area around the cervix react. Then, he maps what he sees, the areas that react the most and those that react the least. After that, if necessary, he takes fragments of the cervix (we then say that he carries out a biopsy) and places them between two slides to carry out analyses on these areas that react more or less well to this alcohol.

Finally, he sends it to another STD laboratory which studies your file.

I didn’t know what to expect before this exam. I discovered on the spot that they were going to do an HPV biopsy. But I reassure you: it does not represent much pain for those who often visit the dentist.

I felt like it was happening too far inside of me for me to have any accurate sensations. When the STD practitioner scratched, I felt things which wasn’t pleasant, but  I wouldn’t say it felt like pain.

It was unpleasant, that’s all. He explained to me just before what he would do to me, but it was quite quick, so you shouldn’t worry too much!

How I found out I had it

About three weeks later, I received a paper from this gynaecologist who had the results. He had prepared an envelope with a note for a surgeon because I was going to have to have surgery. The results were also inside.

I’m lucky to have an immunologist friend who could explain them to me because they don’t mean anything when you don’t know the terms. I learned that I had an HPV oncogenic papillomavirus—oncogenes are a category of genes that promote cancer. Mine was quite powerful in homogenisation.

But despite everything, I never worried…

Above all, my advice at this stage of the STD story is NOT to go and see what people on the Internet say about it (if you listen to them, a blocked nose is a stroke). Just trust health professionals and legitimate people to inform you.

So I knew I had to have HPV vulva surgery. Knowing that symptoms do not accompany the papillomavirus, it was frustrating to tell myself that I would be on the hook for something I didn’t feel.

My operation

I was not interned at all for this operation: I was taken care of in a clinic where all the other people came for pregnancies, and I was waiting to be called, surrounded by pregnant women!

It is a laser operation without anaesthesia because these HPV operations are too short (in some cases, this laser treatment is accompanied by local anaesthesia). In all, it lasted about ten minutes. Beforehand, I saw the surgeon for the first time to discuss what he was going to do to me. Well, in my case, he was an asshole, so I didn’t get any answers to the questions I asked, but I was still able to gather some information.

So I arrived at the STD hospital, and they put me in a beautiful light outfit with my ass showing.

I lay down on the table; the guy took his laser, which he put inside me after spreading. And there, we must say what it is: the most terrible pain on Earth happened then. It’s worse than a tattoo, really, and the problem is you don’t forget that pain. It hurt like I had fifty painful periods at once. And then, once again, it’s visceral, internal: psychologically, it’s hard to bear.

He lasered the areas, and then I went home. Afterwards, on the way back, I remember it throbbing a little, but very slightly. I could have run, played sports, anything.

On the other hand, where the STD problem lies is that you can’t have penetrative sex for a month until it scars, except through the anus.

In any case, I was in so much pain at the time that it was enough to wipe out my libido for a while. They could have put Alexander Skarsgard naked and available in front of me, and I would have managed to say no.

Convalescence after the operation

Afterwards, you have to wait four to five months for the uterus to recover completely. And really, having STD surgery didn’t change anything in my life! Later, I had to do another HPV smear to check that the problem had disappeared, and that was indeed the case. It was just a bit of an annoying setback.

So there you have it. I want to reassure everyone who will have to go through it that it’s just very painful at the time. It lasted ten minutes, but I thought it had lasted eight hours. And once it’s over, you live your life normally.

In this case, my papillomavirus was powerful and disappeared on the first try. It didn’t traumatise me at all. And then, I realised, after having had the STD operation while talking about it to those around me, that half of my friends had already had one, internal or external.

De-dramatizing it

In my case, it was like a nasty cervical cold, but that’s it! No symptoms and no pain besides this very short operation… The only constraint is the sex restrictions for a month.

Another important HPV aspect: you have to check that your sexual partners don’t have it, too! As a result, it is obligatory to use condoms while everyone checks whether they (or no longer) have them. Because as long as you still have it, you give it back, your partner gives it back to you, and it’s a never-ending circle. You have to be serious about this because it can have very negative effects to have it several times!

But we have to play it down: it is, in my eyes and to my lips, one of the least dramatic STDs. This does not prevent us from taking this HPV subject seriously and consulting regularly! But I think taking something seriously doesn’t necessarily mean worrying about it too much.