In the moment, I didn’t put enough thought into how I would tell B about my HPV. With little concern for what he would be going through on the other end of the line, I sent him quick and sporadic texts as I got and missed the initial call from my doctor and after she had told me I had HPV.
I was lucky in two ways and unlucky in one.
Firstly, I wasn’t faced with the real option of telling or not telling him I had HPV. As he had known that my doctor had called, he was waiting to find out why. It never crossed my mind to lie to him, and it was certainly an easier process to find out about HPV together than to have to think about when, why, and if to tell him. With the choice out of my hands, it was something I didn’t really think about until after the fact. That maybe I should have called and spoken to him in person. That I didn’t even have to tell him right away at all.
(Unlike many other STIs and STDs, doctors don’t recommend contacting your past sexual partners to tell them about your diagnosis. They maintain that HPV is too prevalent for this to be beneficial. While I don’t totally agree with that, I did choose to not let past partners know once I had been diagnosed. My doctor had made a face and shook her head vigorously when I had asked if it was necessary.)
Secondly, B was incredibly, totally, amazingly supportive and kind. Not once did I feel judgement or disappointment from him. I was lucky not only that he didn’t blame or guilt me for what had happened (because honestly, I think both would have been perfectly rational initial reactions) but he encouraged me to not blame myself, to look at the positives, and to forgive my past actions. He became the only thing that kept me sane when I spiraled into a pool of guilt. His unwavering empathy and kindness is something for which I will always, always be extremely grateful.
Thirdly, we were thousands of miles apart at the time. This is the unlucky part of telling B. For months, the only way we were able to communicate was through text and Skype. When it happened, all we wanted was to be together, to be able to talk face to face. Although my diagnosis did bring us closer together, forcing a new level of intimacy and honesty, I wondered if the same level of comfort we had found while processing everything through computer and phone screens would still be present when I eventually saw him in person again. The diagnosis and subsequent medical consequences were frightening and trying on their own, but dealing with them with B so far away made everything ten times more laborious and heart-wrenching.
Overall, I think it was a pretty fair trade-off. A little extra pain because of a little extra distance in exchange for more love than I ever expected.