You can read Part 2 here.
I had my follow-up appointment following my HPV diagnosis yesterday. I was scheduled for a culposcopy and possible biopsies if the gynecologist found any abnormal cells. Until yesterday morning, I had a pretty ambivalent attitude towards the appointment.
My thoughts went something alone these lines: I have an STI. Unfortunately, my STI is not one that I can just take an antibiotic and it will go away. HPV is a virus. I have no control over which strain I was exposed to. I was concentrating on being as healthy and stress-free as possible so that my body could fight the virus better. I thought that I had reached a point of acceptance.
Even though I had spent at least 8 hours researching HPV, reading about statistics, and learning as much as I possibly could about it, I woke up yesterday morning and was terrified. I know that several women on my mother’s side of the family have had complications due to cervical cancer. While I know that cervical cancer is caused by particular strains of HPV, I couldn’t help but wonder if there is a genetic component to the cancer as well, if there was some way to be more prone to HPV turning into cervical cancer.
I spent at least an hour crying in bed, with Fiance comforting me. He has really been amazing through all of this. I expected him to be just as stressed as me. After all, we haven’t used a barrier method in a long time, and if I have HPV, it means that he does too. Instead, he took the diagnosis in stride, and focused his efforts on comforting me. My dear friends wrote uplifting and encouraging things when I confessed my anxiety. Thank you, girls, it really meant a lot to me.
The culposcopy was similar to a really long pap smear. Unlike with a pap, the gynecologist did not use any lubrication when inserting the speculum, and the speculum was opened a bit wider than normal, which was uncomfortable. The gynecologist cleaned my cervix with a saline solution, and then she placed a cotton ball soaked with vinegar against my cervix. The cotton ball was so cold!
The vinegar will apparently react with any abnormal cells, and make it easier for the gynecologist to see if the virus is creating warts, or, worse, cysts and pre-cancerous growths. She then used a culposcope, which is similar to a microscope, to examine my cervix.
I am sure you can imagine my relief when the gynecologist told me that she didn’t see any abnormal cells, and I didn’t need to have any biopsies performed. She was pretty surprised herself, and told me that this only happens about 1 in 20 times that she does a culposcopy. She did, however, take a sample of the cells inside my cervix, which will be tested. I’ll receive the results in about two weeks.
I want to reiterate that without Planned Parenthood, I wouldn’t have been able to receive this sort of screening without basically going hungry for a couple of weeks. Please, if you have the chance and the liquidity, consider donating to Planned Parenthood. Your donations help women and men receive vital sexual health care and information. It certainly helped me.
Thanks to a tip from one of my dear friends, I found out about Grace’s Diary, a beautifully drawn point and click game. But this isn’t your ordinary game.
Grace’s Diary is a visual novel with easy gameplay, but this game has a purpose. Grace is concerned about her friend Natalie and Natalie’s relationship with her boyfriend, Ken. Grace has decided that she should call Natalie and voice her concerns, but Grace needs to write down the behaviors that concerned her.
As Grace, you explore your own room for reminders of times that Ken or Natalie have acted in strange ways. If you find all of the evidence, and you navigate your conversation with Natalie successfully, there is a happy ending.
Although I think some of the gameplay is a little clunky (there is one piece that is particularly difficult to find, and I had to use a walkthrough to find it) and some of the dialogue could use some work, there is no doubt that Grace’s Diary is a great game. You can find Grace’s Diary on the Amazon App store here, and it is free.
For those of you who don’t know, WordPress gives bloggers the ability to look at a lot of the data associated with a blog that one owns. The information that I find the most intriguing (and often hilarious) is the search terms that lead people to Nice Girls. The searches are often in the form of a question.
After sharing a couple of these on twitter, I thought I would amuse myself by answering them here. Hopefully you will find these as interesting as I do! Read the rest of this entry
The Kansas State Board of Healing Arts has stripped Dr. Ann Neuhaus of her license to practice medicine following malpractice allegations. She didn’t maim anyone during surgery. She didn’t prescribe the wrong drugs. She didn’t misdiagnose someone.
I would like to start this post by saying that I am floored by the amount of attention my post on Monday received. I would like to thank my followers on Twitter, the communities on Reddit (though I have mixed feelings about being so popular on the Men’s Rights subreddit), Nixie’s Revision 3 and YouTube followers, Y-Combinator, Rikki Endsley, Leslie Hawthorn, Laura Czajkowski, GeekFeminism.org, Linux Magazine and especially Felicia Day (I fangirled a little, seeing that) for sharing my post and contributing their thoughts. [Edit: Rikki Endsley has posted a fabulous follow-up blog. You can find it here.] Read the rest of this entry
Today is the day that the provision in President Obama’s Affordable Care Act regarding women’s sexual health goes into effect, and I couldn’t be prouder of our nation.
Today is the day that your health insurance is required to start providing the most essential of sexual health screenings and all FDA approved contraception without co-pay. This is huge. According to CBS News, these are the services that your health insurance is required to provide without charging you a co-pay:
- Well-woman visits, including an annual check-up for adult women to get recommended preventive services, and additional visits if women and their doctors determine them necessary.
- Contraception and contraceptive counseling: Women will have free access to all FDA-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures and patient education and counseling without a co-pay. Most workers in employer-sponsored plans are currently covered for contraceptives.
- Gestational diabetes screening for women 24 to 28 weeks pregnant, and those at high risk of developing gestational diabetes. Women who have gestational diabetes have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future and the children of women with gestational diabetes are at increased risk of being overweight and insulin-resistant during childhood.
- HPV DNA testing every three years for women who are 30 or older, regardless of Pap smear results. HPV screening has been shown to help reduce the prevalence of cervical cancer.
- Annual sexually transmitted infections (STI) counseling for sexually-active women. Such sessions have been shown to reduce risky behavior in patients; only 28 percent of women aged 18-44 years reported that they had discussed STIs with a doctor or nurse, according to HHS.
- HIV screening and counseling for sexually-active women. From 1999 to 2003, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a 15 percent increase in AIDS cases among women, and a 1 percent increase among men, suggesting an increased risk for women.
- Breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling for pregnant and postpartum women, including access to comprehensive lactation support and counseling from trained providers, as well as breastfeeding equipment.
- Interpersonal and domestic violence screening and counseling for all adolescent and adult women. An estimated 25 percent of U.S. women report being targets of intimate partner violence during their lifetimes and screening will lead to interventions to increase their safety.
Already covered under the law are other free preventive services for women recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a group of doctors that advise the government on treatment guidelines. These include mammograms every 1-2 years for women over 40, cervical cancer screenings and prenatal care.
The ever-awesome Guttmacher Institute has put out a video explaining why contraceptives need to be covered under health insurance, and another detailing why abortions are a necessary thing to be covered under health insurance too.
Of course, there are those who believe that this is A Bad Thing. Most amusingly, so far, has been Pennsylvania Representative Mike Kelly who, in a spectacular show of insensitivity, has compared today to both Pearl Harbor and 9-11.
Here’s a newsflash for you, Representative Kelly, pap smears are nothing like acts of war. I should know, as I’ve lived through both.
You can find Part 1 of my Planned Parenthood Experience here. I was nervous when I woke up on the morning of my appointment. Bleary-eyed, I put on clothes, kissed the still sleeping Boyfriend goodbye, and headed to the car.
I entered the office and checked myself in with the front desk. After filling out some information regarding my current sexual activity, my income, and my sexual health history, I handed the clipboard in and watched Say Anything as I waited.
There was a group of three young women behind me, and they were discussing birth control options as they too were waiting to be seen. My ears perked up when one of them mentioned that she was considering getting an IUD. As readers of this blog are fully aware, I am a HUGE fan of IUDs, and I took the opportunity to share my experiences with it, and some of the awesome statistics.
After a short period of time, I was called into the back room, and had a chat with one of the attending nurses. She explained that, due to my symptoms and the length of time since my last pap smear, I was going to have a full pelvic exam and a full STI screening. She also explained that the state of California has an awesome program to help people with limited income to receive sexual health care for free, and even with my new job, I qualified.
The STI screening started right there in that tiny office with a prick of my middle finger. This particular test was to screen if I had been exposed to HIV, and amazingly, I would have the results of that test by the end of my appointment. I was blown away by this fantastic advance in HIV screening.
I went into the exam room after giving a urine sample, undressed my lower half, and waited again. When the doctor came in, she was very communicative and explained everything before she started examining me. She took three samples from my cervix, examined the positioning of my IUD (still in place!), and checked that my uterus and ovaries were not swollen. Before she moved her hands, placed the speculum, or swabbed, she was sure to tell me exactly what she was about to do. This definitely put my mind at ease, and kept me from jumping or starting when anything changed.
When she was done, she took one of the samples to their in-house lab, and checked it all out. Apparently, I had a bacterial infection that may have been the cause of the bleeding, and she handed me a prescription antibiotic. Then she told me that Planned Parenthood would call me if any of the other STI tests came back positive, but only if they were positive.
Unfortunately, I did receive one of those calls. My pap smear came back with some abnormalities. At some point in the past 10 years, I was exposed to HPV. The tiny sample that was taken was not enough to determine if I have one of the more benign forms, or if it is one of the types that can lead to cervical cancer. So, I have yet another appointment set to get some biopsies done.
I’ll have a post up on Wednesday, discussing HPV. I’ve gotten to know my STI a lot better since the diagnosis.
I have been a supporter of Planned Parenthood for a long time now. I give donations whenever I can, and I firmly believe in their mission of providing affordable reproductive health care to men and women. I often send emails to my representatives through the Planned Parenthood website when a particular piece of legislation is brought to my attention.
I went to an actual Planned Parenthood office for the first time last week.
I have been experiencing some unusual bleeding that is outside of my normal menstruation cycle. I’ve never experienced something like this before. I haven’t changed my birth control, and both Boyfriend and I have been sexually monogamous for a year and a half. That ruled out several options that could have been the reason behind the bleeding. I turned to WebMD’s symptom checker, and well, this was pretty much my experience:
Although I have a new job, I don’t have health insurance through the job yet. I had been pretty alarmed about this for a couple of days, and I knew that I needed to see a doctor. I had two options:
In San Francisco and most of the Bay Area, we have a free program for people who are uninsured. It’s called Healthy SF, and you can sign up for it at any time. It’s a sliding scale insurance that is available to anyone who lives or works in San Francisco. I ruled out Healthy SF because so many people use it that the clinics are often overrun. I figured that I would be triaged to the lowest priority, and I would probably not be seen at all for weeks.
Then there’s Planned Parenthood. I almost walked right by the office, even though I was looking for it. I walked inside, and was asked to fill out a small form explaining why I was there and disclosing my income. I had a conversation with the nurse, and I now have an appointment for Thursday this week.
I witnessed a man come in, and he was asking a lot of questions of the nurse at the window next to mine. She was giving answers as quickly as he was firing them at her. He was clearly concerned about his partner’s health, and he was trying to understand options for birth control.
This is just part of why I support Planned Parenthood. Informed and compassionate care available for everyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or ability to pay.
As soon as I have a little extra income, you can bet that I’ll start donating to Planned Parenthood on a regular basis again. If you would like to help provide reproductive health care, you can donate at this link.