One of the primary topics I researched when I was first diagnosed with HPV was how and why the virus might come back after going dormant. I read that it had to do with your immune system, that deficiencies could lead to a reactivation of the virus. Those with poor immune systems were most at-risk for chronic HPV, a primary cause of HPV-related cancers. When I was diagnosed with HPV, I felt out of control, lost, and helpless. But this was the one thing I could take charge of. My health, my immune system.

I went a little crazy the first few months. I made certain rules for myself, obsessed over certain foods. I had a list in my phone of foods that were “good” for your immune system and tried to include one or more at every meal. A meal without at least one was pointless to me.

I drank green tea and swallowed garlic pills every night; both were meant to improve your immunity. I would chop up a clove of garlic and swallow it, piece by piece, until my stomach sloshed with all the water I had drank.

I cut out alcohol and most packaged foods. At company happy hours I would find an excuse not to drink, no matter how many cocktails were pushed my way. I would spend hours thinking about if a Clif bar or a bag of cereal was bad because it was packaged or if it was okay for me to eat. I thought it would be easier to just throw everything in my pantry in the garbage.

It was late winter, and many people in the office were sick. I would flinch when someone coughed near me, and stand an extra few feet away from the person who had just returned after three days out. I starting swallowing extra garlic because not only was I trying to strengthen my immune system, but now I had to protect it from the epidemic sweeping through the office.

I spent a crazy amount of money on kombucha. I had never worried about my gut health before, but was suddenly convinced that it was the weak spot in my health. I would only drink the green ones, the ones fortified with extra minerals. Raspberry kombucha? Please. That seemed more like a dessert to me.

Likely I didn’t change my overall health in a few months. All of these things were small, silly, and some might say crazy. But they gave back to me some of the control I had lost since finding out I had HPV, CIN III, pre-cancer. I could do nothing about what was happening inside of me.

But this, these silly habits, these attempts at a perfect immune system. I could do this.

And it helped.

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