was in a hospital bed, looking at the small TV in front of me,
holding myself from crying. I was still wearing my street clothes,
looking at my small bag, afraid to unpack it and dress in my pyjamas,
frightened to accept my condition. I was staying in the middle bed,
alone, hungry and thirsty, not knowing what to expect from that day,
only aware that a nurse told me that my mother could not stay with me
and that I could only have visitors after the surgery.
had imagined a different day. From the moment I had found out that I
would have the surgery, I kept imagining the preparations. They all
began with the night before the surgery. I was imagining myself
suffering from terrible insomnia, awake in my bed, turning from one
side to another, trying to wake up my boyfriend and ask him to calm
me down. In fact, I managed to sleep quite well the night before the
surgery, although my dreams seemed strange when I woke up. I forgot
them soon after getting up from my bed. My imagination continued with
the road to the hospital, the doctors and nurses, the effect of the
anaesthesia, the talks I would have with my mom while waiting to go
into the surgery room. But from all of the images I had in my mind, I
was left with nothing else apart from fear and the sudden realization
that I had become part of a statistic.
now know some facts. I know that on the 23rd of August 2019 I became
one of the numbers describing HPV infection statistics. According to
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly all sexually
active women and men have been at one point in their life infected
So the fact from that August afternoon is not surprising and could
have easily been presumed without any need for an HPV test. The issue
was that I had five strains of the HPV virus, three of which were
high-risk, two of them being the ones causing 70% of the cases of
strains 16 and 18. Another fact I was well aware of was that I was
diagnosed with cervical dysplasia and that as a smoker, the risks of
cervical cancer were high. The last important information about my
new condition was that I had three recommendations to undergo a LEEP
am now months later after my diagnosis, three weeks later after my
LEEP surgery, waiting impatiently for the results of my biopsy, still
as I am typing these letters, I still feel left in the same hospital
bed, with the same anxiety running through my cells, with the same
confusion running through my mind. And not only because I cannot
accept the fact that I did not quit smoking or because I am still
waiting for the results. These are factors that influence my mindset
and perspective. But I have also realized scarier aspects of my
relationship with HPV and reached terrifying conclusions about our
society’s relation with HPV.
highly clicheic, it is equally true, that we do not understand the
value of prevention, the dangers of disease or the possibility of
death at a young age until it happens to us. We are often faced with
so many statistics of so many diseases, with so many stories of awful
pains and vulnerabilities of our human body, but we refuse to think
that they talk about us. We think that they are meant for other
people. Or that is the way I had always acted and to a certain
degree, still act, even when it comes to my results. It
happen to me, I found out early, the chances are low that my
dysplasia developed into cancer. But this is no positive
thinking. This is our human struggle to accept the inevitable death.
By pushing the statistic to other people, never us, our mothers,
sisters, daughters and friends.
we are special and we all have so many things we want to achieve, so
much value that should not be lost. But this applies to everyone, not
only to who matters to us. And this is a hard pill to swallow, but it
might be the one making us aware that those billboards calling women
to go to their anual gynecology checks are not for the anonym woman
who dies daily as a result of this awful disease. Replace the face in
the commercial with your own and you might understand that the
barrier between you and her is nonexistent.
my cells continue to be invaded by fright and fury. And I start by
blaming society for not making more awareness campaigns in my
homecountry, Romania. Then I remember how the HPV vaccine was refused
by the majority of parents with girls between 10-12 years old between
2010 and 2012 because of irational fears.
And then fury wins and it wins rationally. And this time I am only
sister had two LEEP sugeries caused by HPV infection when I was a
teenager, a sexually active one, and I did not even think for a
second to do the test or the vaccine. My friends were talking about
abnormal PAP results and I was still postponing my annual gynecology
exam. Even when my PAP test from 2018 came with an abnormal result I
only did the treatment and did not go for a second check. And I am
the one to blame.
ony way to fully prevent HPV infections is by avoiding all sexual
contact. I do not blame myself for my sexual life - hopefully no one
does - but I blame myself for seeing only numbers and faceless
persons in the HPV struggle. Even when it happened to my sister,
cancer seemed like such a distant world that I could hardly associate
these words. And I blame myself for that and for seeing myself old
and surrounded by children, while I still smoke my cigarretes,
because cancer is only a number in those reports and not something
growing inside me. Or is it?
name is Stefania Ventome, I am a 27 years old Romanian, passionate
about writing, history and anthropology.
Writing is a way for
me to challenge my past, my imagination and my emotions.
a child, it meant playing with my imagination and fighting with my
insecurities and shyness. Later, writing became part of my
personality and I am now telling the stories of my life, society and
world through words.
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
Preservation Foundation, Inc., A Nonprofit Book Publisher