My Story To Help Others

Tell the community your story. How has HPV affected your life?

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My Story To Help Others

Postby BeHappy » Fri Oct 03, 2014 10:35 am

I felt the need to post my story here with the intention of helping others. I'm probably not bringing any new information to the table but I know that when I was scouring the internet for information, personal stories really helped me so this is my way of paying it forward.

A little about me: female, non-smoker, age 35, lesbian

My story:

5 months ago, I went to the gynecologist for a routine pap smear. A few weeks before the appointment, I developed what looked like a skin tag close to the skin crease between my labia and thigh. There was nothing about it that seemed to indicate that it was anything other than a skin tag (no itching, a finger like papule projection). While I was at the doctors, I asked her to also look at it. I have a few other skin tags in other places on my body so I didn't think too much of it. She took a look, confirmed it was a skin tag, and then removed it right there in the office (cut it off). It took about 4 days for the area to heal which was quite painful. It literally felt like she just sliced out a part of my body and so there was quite a wound for me to heal.

When the pap smear results came back, the lab reported abnormalities on my cervix consistent with HPV. The doctor told me it was high risk HPV which is the one that causes cancer. She decided that I needed to take a sample from my cervix to have it checked so I came back in to have that done. Not an entirely pleasant experience but it wasn't complicated and I was in and out of the office quickly. This procedure was less painful than the skin tag removal.

A week later, the lab results came back and she said it wasn't cancerous and I should just come back in 6 months for another pap smear check. At this point I felt relief; the HPV didn't seem to be the one that caused genital warts and the abnormal cells weren't cancer. I felt great about all that!

Another week after that, I started to develop 3 more "skin tags" all on or close to my outer labia. At this point I started to also feel some discomfort with itching and pain in that area and also on the lower part of my mons pubis. I started to get really worried and I made another appointment with my gynecologist. She took a look at it again and decided (again!) that they were just skin tags. She removed them again with the same method as the first one and sent them off to the lab for analysis. She told me she needed to make sure it wasn't cancerous. So again, I had these gaping wounds that took a week to heal.

A few days later, the lab report came back and this time she called to tell me that I had genital warts. I was absolutely floored. At this point, it's been 3 months since she first diagnosed me with a high risk HPV and skin tag and all along it seems that they were probably genital warts and low risk HPV. In my naivety, I assumed they had done a test to confirm the type of HPV I had but as it turned out, she was just assuming it was high risk (she confirmed this with me). She said that she removed all the warts she could see but I could tell there was still something going on down there (bumps on my mons pubis and a few other areas) so I asked her to prescribe me with something that I could use at home. She prescribed me with 4 weeks worth of Imiquimod (Aldara).

Treatment Begins

After I let myself cry, get upset, and be depressed for 1 day (seriously, don't let yourself get into a funk for longer than this), I put together a strategy:

1. No more drinking until I'm totally clear. No excuses or exceptions. I was a very regular drinker before (at least 2 drinks a day) but I removed that variable from the equation immediately.

2. Regular exercise. This wasn't too hard for me since I'm training for a marathon, 4 days a week running.

3. Take supplements to boost immune system. For me this is an Astragalus supplement 3 times a day, green tea, and Emergen-C drinks.

4. It should also go without saying that you should be eating healthy and getting plenty of sleep. Oh, and if you're a smoker, quit now.

For the first 2 weeks of using Imiquimod, I didn't see any changes. Nor did I have any of the side effects that other people are reporting (itching, burning, swelling, etc.). I started to get really worried that this just wasn't going to work on me. But at the start of week 3, it started to kick in. A few of the larger bumps that looked like they were turning into skin tags again started to blacken and shrink. Other bumps started to shrink as well and I started to get those side effects everyone was talking about.

The only time that the side effects became bothersome was when I knew that I had put too much of the cream on. You really only should put a small amount directly on the warts. For all the people that say this cream is awful, I think maybe they aren't reading the directions (3 days a week, only on the warts). I suspect people are panicing and slathering the stuff all over themselves every day which causes a very strong reaction. We all want these things to go away immediately but unfortunately it does take a little bit of time so patience is needed.

I just finished my 3rd week of self treatment with Imiquimod and there's no doubt that I'm seeing improvements. The doctor gave me a prescription for 4 weeks worth of treatment and the bumps aren't entirely gone yet so I think I might need another few weeks.

My Advice

-- Let yourself be upset but don't let it take over your life. It's a natural process of going through anger, grief, and sadness when you're diagnosed with something like this but it's not the end of the world. It's not HIV, it's not cancer, it's NOT something that will kill you. Remind yourself that if you ever feel yourself getting overwhelmed.

-- Don't be ashamed. Remind yourself that there are millions of people that have HPV and/or genital warts. You're very much not alone and it's not going to ruin your life. People just don't talk about it but trust me, it's on the minds of a lot of people.

-- Explain this to your partner. They should understand. It's not a deal breaker by any means. If they haven't gotten it from you already (or was the one that gave it to you), it's very likely they'll eventually get it from someone else anyway.

Going Forward

My treatment isn't complete yet and I'm not entirely wart free as I write this but I'm confident that if I stick to my plan, my body will sort things out. I would like to come back to this thread and let everyone know how it all worked out. One of the things I found frustrating were people who would write "it's working!" after 2 weeks but we never hear from them again.

Thanks for reading and I hope my story helps someone.
BeHappy
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Re: My Story To Help Others

Postby TNRedhead22 » Wed Oct 08, 2014 9:34 pm

Hey!
I want to say thank you for giving me a sense of hope. I have been diagnosed with HPV for almost 4 months now. I carry this weight of guilt and shame. It seems to pop up everyday. When you have the warts visible, like I do now, it's hard to forget about it. I am still at that stage where I pray to God and ask him why was I given this. I have only one friend who knows what I am going through and for her she has learned to accept it but for me I am so upset and depressed because I still haven't learned to accept myself again or even alittle more. I guess I just need some guidance and support. I really loved your honesty because I consider myself a honest person and I respect your courage to tell your story. Thanks for being a inspiration and sharing your story!
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Re: My Story To Help Others

Postby BeHappy » Mon Oct 13, 2014 8:46 am

Hi TNRedhead22. I know what you mean about it being on your mind every day. I'm certain that once they've gone away (which they eventually will!), it won't be something that's always nagging us.

Keep your head up! We'll kick this! :)
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Re: My Story To Help Others

Postby BeHappy » Mon Jun 15, 2015 7:38 am

I'm just stopping by here to give an update. It's been 1 year since I was diagnosed with HPV and I haven't had any symptoms in over 3 months. All of my previous external warts are gone and there's no sign of any more forming. It didn't happen overnight and I want to stress with everyone that it takes time and you have to have patience.

You also have to be very persistent with your treatment plan. Your doctor probably wont tell you how to treat yourself on a daily basis and so you're going to have to come up with a plan yourself and stick to it. Here's what I ended up doing:

As I mentioned in my first post, I was using Aldara but stopped using it after a few months because, although it work on some of the warts, it didn't stop others from forming. Not to mention it took a long time for the existing warts to have any change. Maybe it'll work for you, maybe not. I'm not saying that you shouldn't try it but it wasn't the best course of treatment for me so I discontinued use.

I started a very strict vitamin regimen consisting of the following:

- Lysine, 500mg x 1
- Green Tea complex, 400mg (or more) x 2
- Echinacea, 250mg x 1
- Vitamin C, 1000mg x 1
- Vitamin E, 400 IU x 1
- Vitamin A, 8000 IU x 1
- Zinc, 50mg x 1

The vitamins will boost your immune system and your super charged system will help with keeping new warts from forming. I've been taking this vitamin cocktail consistently every day for 6 months and continue to keep on going until I get a negative pap smear result.

As for the existing warts, I already mentioned that I stopped using the Aldara cream so my next solution was just to literally pull them off. Yes. Grip the wart at the base and pull it off. It'll bleed for a second but put some antibacterial cream on it with a cotton ball on it until it stops. Your body will heal it very quickly and that's the end of it.

When a new wart started to appear, I'd pull/scrap it off and it would heal within a few days and wouldn't re-appear. Even if I didn't get the entire thing off (like if the wart was too small), just nicking it seemed to trigger a very awesome healing reaction from my body and the damaged wart would be gone in a few days anyway. I actually wished I had started pulling them off myself way earlier. It maybe hurts a little but it's not bad as you'd think. I went through this cycle for about a month (pulling off maybe one a week) and they stopped from appearing entirely not long after.

I'm due to have another 6 month pap smear soon so I can't say with certainty that I'm clear of the virus yet but all external symptoms are gone at this point. I'll try to keep posting back with any more details that I think might be helpful to someone else.
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Re: My Story To Help Others

Postby BeHappy » Mon Oct 05, 2015 8:35 am

Hi everyone! I'm back with a follow up. It's been 1 year since my first post here (and ~16 months since my initial diagnosis). I'm happy to say that my last pap smear resulted in NEGATIVE for HPV! I'll have another follow up in 6 months for safe measure but it's looking up. I haven't had any symptoms in some time now and everything is back to normal.

This has been a stressful journey but one that has a happy ending (one that I'm certain you will have as well). I may be repeating the same things that others have said but for me it came down to:

- Healthy living, eating, and exercising

- Supplemental vitamins (I really feel like the green tea extract and lysine are the keys here. I'm not a medical professional though).

- Stress management. Having a supportive partner probably made all the difference for me but do what you can to manage your stress with or without that. Accept that this will take some time to heal and manage your stress accordingly.

Thank for reading and of course I'll continue to update this thread if anything has changed. :)
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Re: My Story To Help Others

Postby BeHappy » Wed Feb 22, 2017 10:53 am

Hi everyone,

Amazing it's already been over a year since my last post. I had my 6 month follow up pap and that also came back negative. Haven't had any external warts either. The doc put me back on a normal pap smear schedule (every few years or whatever it is for your age) and that was such a great feeling not to worry about scheduling such frequent checkups.

I continue to take the supplements which I still believe has had the most positive contribution to my immune suppression of HPV. Daily (morning) cocktail currently includes:

- Lysine, 500mg x 1
- Green Tea complex, 400mg (or more) x 2
- Echinacea, 250mg x 1
- Cranberry supplement, 4200mg x 2

Enjoy life, everyone! :||:
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