A few days after my 9th date with Whippersnapper, I felt a bit sore in my special place.
I’m quite prone to things like thrush, so I didn’t think much of it at first. Normally if I respond quickly enough, a bit of thrush cream seems to do the trick.
This time, it kept getting worse, even with the cream. By Tuesday morning, the day of our 10th date, it was really uncomfortable.
There are a couple of bits and pieces down there which are normally neatly tucked away, unless I’m using them, but now they were permanently out, and really sore and inflamed. It felt different to thrush; more sore and not itchy.
I was worried. I’d recently had sex with Whippersnapper, who had genital warts and herpes, and now I had this. Even though we used a condom, both genital warts and herpes can be spread even with a condom, because they’re passed on by skin-to-skin contact.
Mid-morning, after my first couple of patients, I went into the toilet at work, and tried to have a good look. I couldn’t really see much though, because I couldn’t contort my body into the right position. All I could see was that things looked sore, which I already knew.
I went back into the office and sat at my desk. On Tuesdays, I share a little office with two colleagues.
I waited for everyone to go out of the room, and then quickly searched for the number of the Sexual Health clinic. I tried to call them several times, to make an appointment, but it kept going through to answerphone.
I got more worried. I was going to India in three days, for a friend’s wedding. Some people describe India as a developing country, and a couple of Indian friends had suggested I wear less revealing clothes over there. I didn’t really want to rock up to a conservative, developing country with a sexually transmitted infection in full flow.
I went back into the toilet with the little mirror from my makeup bag. This time I could see round the corner of my torso and had a better view. However, the mirror was so far away, I couldn’t see if there were any possible genital warts or herpes blisters there.
These days I wear glasses for driving, and watching subtitled films. I realised I was going to have to put my glasses on to see in the mirror properly.
For goodness sake. I’m young enough to catch genital warts from a Whippersnapper, but I’m too old to be able to see them without my glasses.
I went back into the office. My colleague was back. I surreptitiously got my glasses out of my handbag and went back into the toilet for a third time.
This time, glasses on, I could see some little bumps in the mirror.
I went back into the office and discreetly put my mirror and glasses back in my handbag, and got my phone out. I snuck into the kitchen and called the Sexual Health clinic again. This time, thank goodness, I managed to get through. I made an appointment for the morning of my late shift, the day before my flight to India.
I sat back down at my desk again and tried concentrate on my work. Now, not only was I worried about seeing Whippersnapper that evening and talking about how unhappy I was, I was also worried I had herpes or genital warts.
It felt more likely to be genital warts, as that was what he’d most recently had. I hoped it was genital warts, rather than herpes, as at least warts go away. The bumps seemed more like genital warts, but the soreness made me think it could be herpes.
For the rest of the afternoon, I kept being tempted to go back into the toilets and investigate further, but I thought if I kept putting my glasses on to go for a wee, my colleagues might wonder what I was doing in there.
After work, I went home and hastily got ready to go back out and meet WS. Before doing my makeup, I had another look down there, this time with a better mirror.
I definitely could see some bumps.
I rushed out to the tube.
I wrote about my 10th date with WS, but the one thing I didn’t mention, was talking to him about the potential warts.
After I’d stopped being annoyed with him for all the cancellations, and we were having a lovely time together, I brought it up.
“So, one thing I wanted to talk to you about was… I think I might have caught genital warts.”
“How?!” He exclaimed, seeming horrified.
Because you’ve just had them, and it’s a sexually transmitted disease, and we had sex last week.
“I think you know how.” I replied.
We talked about how it can be transmitted even with a condom, and what symptoms I had.
He said “do you think it could’ve been when we were asleep?”
Yeah, I mean I think it’s more likely to have happened when we rubbed our genitals together, really, really hard, but sure, maybe it happened when we were asleep.
“I’m toxic.” He said. I felt sorry for him, as he seemed really upset about it. He seemed more upset than I was.
He asked me what I thought about the fact he might’ve infected me.
“It is what it is. It’s not ideal, but I knew there was risk, even though we used a condom, and I still made the choice to do it. It’s not your fault.” I replied.
Obviously, later that night we had the big conversation about our relationship, and agreed not to speak until I was back from India.
Two days later, I went to the clinic. It had a massive waiting room, with what seemed like 100 chairs in, but just me and one young man were there. He was wearing shorts, but I didn’t think it was warm enough for shorts. There was a TV showing ‘Homes Under the Hammer’.
I sat and waited. A very elderly, Asian man in a suit came in. I was curious what STD he had, and how he caught it, then I reprimanded myself in my head for being judgmental.
He’s just as entitled to have an STI as everyone else!
Then it turned out he had a cardiology appointment and was in the wrong place.
I saw a lady walk past, who I recognised. I knew she was a nurse for the Sexual Health service; last year she had used the same office as me in a GP surgery on Tuesdays. As we vaguely knew each other professionally, I really hoped it wouldn’t be her who scrutinised my vagina.
Eventually my name got called and I got up from the waiting room. It wasn’t the lady I knew, thank goodness.
It was a doctor who seemed nice. I explained the situation. She asked me some routine questions about my sexual history; I couldn’t remember how long it was since I slept with Young Jaguar, which made me feel a bit of a floozy.
Then I had to go back to the waiting room. Shorts Man came back in and we awkwardly passed each other.
After a while, a nurse called me back in, and I had to get undressed behind a curtain. I had to lie down on a bed with my feet in stirrups.
The doctor came back. They were about to open me with a speculum. I’ve always found this unbearably painful, until my last smear test, when the nurse told me my uterus tilts to the right, and that I should tell future healthcare professionals so they can angle the equipment less painfully.
I tried to tell the doctor this. She reacted a bit like when you give a taxi-driver directions they haven’t asked for, but the cervix opening was less painful than usual.
They took some cells from inside me to test.
Next the put on a lamp and had a really good look at my vagina.
“Where were the bumps you thought you saw?” She asked, after a while.
I couldn’t help finding that a tiny bit dismissive.
“Umm, there was like a crevice on the right – my right – where there were loads? And a few on the left? My left.” I replied.
They had a look in the ‘crevice’ and she prodded and poked the bumps.
“Does that hurt?” She asked, kind of squeezing one of the bumps.
“I mean, it doesn’t feel amazing, but no, it doesn’t hurt.” For some reason I’m very bad at giving healthcare professionals straight answers.
Eventually she said “you have a lot of sore, dry skin there, but I can’t see any signs of herpes or warts. I think the bumps you saw were just glandular tissue.”
I have no idea what glandular tissue is, but I was relieved. Well, 95% relieved, and 5% embarrassed for making a fuss out of nothing.
I went back into the waiting room. Shorts Man came back in shortly after. We exchanged sheepish nods.
I watched a bit more Homes Under the Hammer, while they ‘looked at my cells under the microscope.’ After a while they called me back in, and the doctor told me they hadn’t found anything under the microscope either.
She recommended some cream to help with the sore, dry skin. I don’t know why it got like that in the first place.
Relieved, I took my glandular, bumpy, but disease-free genitals and sat in my car.
WS and I had agreed I wouldn’t tell him the outcome of my clinic visit until we met after India, as he thought it was a conversation to have in person. However, I thought I would tell him that it was fine. I knew he was worried.
I wrote him a message explaining about the ‘glandular tissue’. I said I was really sorry for making him worry and feel bad unnecessarily. I said “I also wanted to thank you for being so incredibly lovely and understanding when I was explaining how I felt. You were great. See you when I’m back.”
He replied immediately “Hey I’m really glad about that. And that’s ok it’s my pleasure haha. I’ll see you when you’re back.”
Something about his reply gave me a bad feeling.