Last Updated on June 4, 2020 by Valinda Riggins Nwadike, MD, MPH
This guest post was written by Bridget O’Flannagan, a Facebook friend of Jenelle Marie’s who responded to her call for submissions asking friends, family and acquaintances for their perspectives about The STI Project and how their opinions have evolved as the website’s taken shape.
I wake up in the morning happy, in part, because – at the risk of sounding dramatic – I have had a near death experience. I’m only mentioning this, because it helps me put things into perspective. I guess, it couldn’t have happened to a better person, because I have always been an optimist. My sister used to accuse me of being a ‘Pollyanna’, and if you aren’t at least 45, you probably don’t know what that means. It means I see the best in everything.
Experience with HPV
That being said, when I discovered someone I knew was starting a website to advocate for people with STDs, I was not as respectful as I should have been. I felt a little superior – even though I had dealt with a ‘positive’ pap smear that turned out to be nothing, I have not personally had to deal with other STDs.
I recall a much younger classmate in a grad class back in the late ‘90’s being very concerned as she told me a close friend had been diagnosed with HPV. I didn’t understand what that meant. To me, it sounded very close to HIV, which I did understand, since my sister’s best friend had died of AIDS in 1996. I helped make him a quilt based on a Frank Lloyd Wright design. After that, I learned of other people I knew who were HPV-positive, and I learned that it was not, in general, life-threatening – just, potentially, life altering.
There are, actually, many experiences that are ‘life-altering’. Depression, divorce, pregnancy, death of a loved one, job changes, etc.… life is certainly not static, and many changes happen as we go. In the scheme of things, most STDs are not at the top of the ‘dread’ list.
Learning that I had been exposed to HPV through a past experience with a loved one certainly opened my eyes and made me consider the situation a little differently. When you can personalize a situation, it becomes much more real and probably allows one to be more sympathetic. I ultimately tested negative for the disease, but it made me more aware of the impact of a positive diagnosis.
An Updated Perspective About STDs
I have grown children, and I do hope for good health and good fortune for them. An STD would be a stone in their path – not a roadblock and not a dead end. With the prevalence of STDs, it would not be surprising for any of them to encounter one in their travels. An ‘adopted’ daughter of mine was diagnosed with HPV, and her significant other at the time said, ‘It’s not YOUR HPV, it’s our HPV.’ I thought that was admirable. I realize more and more that STDs are something that will follow a person, and it doesn’t preclude a healthy relationship or a good life.
I am ashamed of my initial, somewhat smug, reaction to this STD support website. ‘It doesn’t affect me’, I thought, but I should have expanded my view and realized, as prevalent as STDs are, many of my friends, family and acquaintances are affected. Not to mention the many, many people I don’t know who are benefiting from this website.
Living with an STD might mean making some alterations in one’s lifestyle – it doesn’t mean living with a scarlet letter. I live with diabetes, others live with heart disease, Crohn’s disease or an STD. We all have our crosses to bear, and thank goodness most of them are manageable. More power to anyone who lives with a condition and is willing to advocate for his/herself, and make the best of the situation… like Pollyanna.
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This guest post was written by Bridget O’Flannagan, a Facebook friend of Jenelle Marie’s who responded to her call for submissions asking friends, family and acquaintances for their perspectives about The STI Project and how their opinions have evolved as the website’s taken shape. Bridget O’Flannagan, at 54, doesn’t feel a day over 53. She happily dwells and teaches in a small community in southwest Michigan and is grateful to wake up every day. She enjoys reading, traveling, dreaming, spending time with loved ones, and watching the seasons change. It is said that the only thing permanent is change – Bridget says, ‘Change is good – it’s the transitions that suck.’ Learning to occasionally say ‘no’, to not being a perfectionist, and to accept that, in most cases, ‘things are what they are’ are her personal goals. Trying to see the best in people, places and things is an ongoing goal.
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Has your perspective about STDs and those that have them changed since The STI Project’s launch or since you’ve learned more about STDs? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!