When I first started talking about my HPV story in HYPOTHESIS, it was easy to get bogged down in the details of how...
How I practiced yoga: the ancient breathing and movement techniques. How I learned to avoid foods I was allergic to, how to take supplements for deficiencies, how to heal my cervix with a gel made from carnivorous plants! Ha! So many details! So easy to get fully engrossed with sharing these readily available, teachable, repeatable practices and make sure everybody knows they are out there as treatment options.
All that said, at the foundation, there is one thing I believe gave me the ability to rise-up to this problem: to be able to follow my own intuition in making treatment choices and commit to acting on them...
The love of my polyamorous partner.
As I explored polyamory and how to love someone in an open marriage,
I gained proficiency in many new relationship skills.
This definitely gave me an advantage in facing a problem like dealing with a STI that can lead to cancer.
Here are the top 4 advantages:
1. Practiced in communicating openly about sex
2. Insisting upon extreme honesty
3. Practiced in independent choice-making
4. Committed to making space for joy
You don’t have to be poly to become practiced in these ‘soft skills’ – they can benefit anyone, not only when facing tough choices but also in developing deeper relationships.
1. Sex positive
Being sex positive can mean a lot of things, but to me a big part of it means
I can talk about sex.
I can say words like cervix, STI, condom, multiple partners, orgasm, penetration, lubricant, etc. It sounds kind of funny, there is nothing improper about any of these words. But most of my adult life (the monogamous portion) these words were explicitly called out as not allowed. Respectable women don’t say these things – right? But in my alternative life style explorations and development of polyamorous relationships, conversations using sexual terminology is not only respected but necessary. By removing these ridiculous restrictions from my everyday language, allowed me to communicate straight and to the point with my doctors and with my family and friends who were my support system.
Another important aspect of living sex positive is,
I became comfortable with my body.
This allowed me to be open to considering things like, inserting vaginal suppositories daily, committing to frequent cervical treatments and screening that required office visits, tending to personal cleanliness in new ways, having meaningful intimate, physical pleasure other than vaginal/penile penetration (in a dark room). This kind of body awareness and acceptance was relatively new to me, and necessary in the HPV treatments I chose.
2. Extreme honesty
Being honest with myself and with my partners has grown to be one of the most important aspects of my lifestyle. I think many would argue extreme honesty is the foundation of ethical non-monogamy. This is much more than open communication, transparency and trust(and that’s a lot). It’s about knowing your own needs and desires and then accepting, sharing and acting on them.
Frankly, I don’t think everyone has what it takes to live this way.
But in my polyamorous relationships, me and my partners hold ourselves accountable to upholding this. It’s not always easy.
It takes practice to accept and not judge.
It takes practice to respond to something hard to hear with love and pulling each other closer.
In my story I got caught in lying by omission when I didn’t previously disclose my high-risk HPV lab findings before they were coupled with cervical dysplasia results. If I wasn’t somewhat practiced in extreme honesty, maybe I would have never told my partner, my family, or anyone – and then I would have never known the joy and beauty of their love and support in this matter. I could have quietly scheduled that LEEP procedure and ‘just got it over with’ without anyone knowing otherwise, but I would never have learned about the power I had in creating a vision of wellness and making it become my reality. I would have never reached out to other women to hear their voices and their experiences in dealing with HPV and treatments of cervical dysplasia.
Bottom line - extreme honesty brings us together.
3. Independent choice-making
Polyamory made me aware of the amazing power and freedom of choice-making.
Every part of my poly lifestyle is explicitly consensual.
There are no limited standard operating procedures to default to because everyone has already made the decision to create their own rules. It has already become a thinking pattern to question the usual, and make sure the way forward is serving the needs of everyone involved. When I was freaking out about the stage-zero cervical cancer diagnosis and didn’t know what to do, my partner comforted me by saying “we will find a way”, and based on all our previous experience in finding a way together, I believed him and knew together we could do that.
From there, my HPV healing experiment was a series of my independent choice-making: changing my diet, changing daily waking and sleeping patterns, trialing new ways of intimacy, changing my free-time activities to yoga and naturopathy and eventually starting to interview people and write.
My partner did not exert possessiveness of my time, my emotions, my body, or my resources being invested in my treatment choices:
All these changes of my choosing were met with encouragement and support.
4. Making space for joy
The core of living a polyamorous lifestyle includes a purposeful choice to make room for joy in each partner’s life and to celebrate that joy. A common word used is compersion (when your partner’s happiness makes you happy).
As is common in poly relationships, me and my partner dedicate designated days of the week to be fully present with each other. Again and again we consciously choose to spend time together, to have fun together, to grow our love together.
So when times get tough, like when I was feeling sick or scared, I count on the habit patterns we developed in prioritizing joy.
When the healing response to the naturopathic treatments was draining me of energy, we made it hug and Netflix night. When I felt completely unsexy because of vaginal suppositories, we explored sensation play. There was always a way to find joy together.
It was easy to expand making room for joy to many areas of my life: I prioritized time to have a weekly tea with my daughter, established a regular sushi lunch place with my son. I explored writing. I interviewed women who had also faced HPV and cervical dysplasia, so I could hear their stories and raise their voices.
The most powerful discovery of joy for me was when I learned to create a vision of complete wellness and the feelings of joy and gratitude before I even knew I was healed: the actual healed part didn’t matter, I felt the joy of wellness anyway, and that made all the difference.
It seems strange looking back onto my pre-poly life, and realizing I was never taught how to put my joy in the center of my everyday life. I didn’t even think that was all that necessary, and I certainly didn’t see it commonly modeled among my peers.