THE INFECTION

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I like to think I’m pretty knowledgable when it comes to matters of the vagina. I read lots of magazines, I google NHS symptoms more often than I probably should and I actually sat up and listened during my Sex Ed lessons at school. I know the difference between a diaphragm and an IUD, I know that Herpes is for life, that Chlamydia is curable and – after entering into a somewhat unfortunate conversation during this year’s Halloween celebrations – I now know what a ‘dental dam’ is. (You should absolutely google it by the way, you won’t know contraception until you know this.)

But it seems this weekend was a weekend full of adult sex education, because – after 26 years – I was introduced to Cystitis for the first time.

Yes, Cystitis. Something that many of you have probably suffered from several times over, but I am new to and am therefore going to want to talk about.

It happened after an action packed weekend of cycling and hanging out with my man friend. I woke up on Monday morning to an overwhelming urge to pee. So I peed. Then I felt like I needed to pee some more. But I couldn’t pee. And it hurt when I did. A lot. And there it was. The very moment this god-awful infection walked – or rather slithered – into my life. Brilliant, I thought. Another triumphant loss for womankind. But I then discovered that men can suffer from it too and I put my pity party hat away.

And that’s basically all I have to say. That it really hurts and it’s really annoying. And I hate it.

You’re probably wondering what the purpose of this post is. Truth is, I just needed to voice how difficult this little infection has made my life over the last couple of days and to let you know that no matter how much it seems as if there’s no light at the end of the urinary tract infection tunnel when you’re inside it, there is a way out. Just stick to the home remedies and hot water bottle and you’ll get there. Trust me.

After sixteen cartons of cranberry juice, fourteen gallons of H20 and 48hrs worth of Sodium Citrate sachets later, it’s sort of gone. And MY GOD, I’m loving being able to pee again. Just like when you get over a week-long cold and you swear that you’ll never take your healthy nostrils for granted ever again, well, the same goes for my urethra. I love her and her ability to let me wee with success and I will worship her and take care of her until the day I die.

So here’s to cystitis, one of the very few things to put me off ever having sex again.

Welcome to my life you awful, awful thing you.

The Visit

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It must seem to my regular readers that I spend most of my time getting medical practitioners to look at my lady bits. I can categorically tell you that this is not the case, however, if it makes you feel better about getting your own private parts checked out, then so be it.

I’ve heard that HIV is on the rise again in young, gay men and although I myself am clearly not a young, gay man, I’m well aware that we are all at risk and that I’m not immune just because I’m a heterosexual female. I also know that it isn’t just HIV that we should be protecting ourselves from either: there are 27 different types of STI that are waiting to latch onto our genitals, so it really is worth spending the time using protection and getting checked out, however old you are and however many sexual partners you’ve had.

If you’re under 18 and reading this, then I can understand that STIs might still be a little bit taboo for your age range. When I was at school, anyone who took a trip to the clinic was there primarily to collect a ton of condoms to throw around in class and if you were caught coming out of one, it was immediately assumed that your knob had fallen off. If, however, you’re old and ugly enough to take responsibility for your dental hygiene and general health, then there’s no excuse for neglecting yourself from the waist down; you should be leading the younger generation by example.

It dawned on me recently that I hadn’t had a test since 2009. Shameful. Four years, and a few sexual partners later, I could have caught something and have passed it onto a bedtime buddy already. A quick debrief of my sexual encounters would tell you that it was highly unlikely that I’d have contracted anything from a list of bright, well brought up, good looking and charming university graduates (not) but it’s not as clear cut as having chocolate on your chin: sometimes it’s too dark or I was too drunk and just because you’re called Harry doesn’t mean you don’t have Herpes. So I took the plunge and got myself booked in last week.

My clinic is the sexual health hub of West London and had been a haunt for most of my health conscious friends and boyfriends growing up, but I hadn’t visited the place in years. And you know what? Not much had changed. The same hushed waiting room was still there: rows of chairs filled with people avoiding eye contact at all costs, an old radio playing the same tracks from 2006 and as I was visiting so close to the festive season, a comforting array of washed out tinsel was strewn decadently about the room. Something that had changed however, was my attitude to getting this done. Instead of feeling ashamed or embarrassed, I felt proud of myself and of the people around me; I’d had a bikini wax and was ready to take on the swab. I did still want to be invisible however, so when I sneezed and a guy said “Bless you”. I thought, “Dude, we’re not waiting for a bus here. I’m trying my very best to be as discrete as possible so could you please just not”.

This was all quickly forgotten when I was told by the nurse that swabs were a DIY job these days. I could’ve jumped on her I was so relieved – and I’m really not that shy about my vagina – so hopefully this will encourage those of you who are a little anxious, to take the leap. If, by some chance, some clinics do ask you to drop your pants, please don’t panic; it really isn’t that bad and it will be over really, really quickly. And to those guys who think they have it worse when it comes to sexual health screenings: woman up. It’s a cotton bud, not a machine gun.

My brother and his mates used to visit the clinic together for moral support. Afterwards, they’d treat themselves to a Nando’s for being so brave. I don’t care what it takes to get yourself checked out; whether you want to have sex with your girlfriend without a condom or if you need to justify getting your Peri-Peri fix that week, make like Nike and just do it. Remember that those who are there to assist you have seen a lot worse (confirmed when my gyno made a cameo appearance treating genital warts on Embarrassing Bodies a while back) while those who are waiting to be seen are only there to look after themselves, just like you.

Yes, it’s embarrassing when you’re about to show your foof to a complete stranger or when you’re asked a long list of questions about your sex life but it really is so important to make sure you’re clean as more serious diseases are found in young people today. Oh, and a little FYI: never respond with “erm… I tried it once but stopped because it hurt” when asked if you’ve had anal sex during your health questionnaire; the nurse is trying to figure out if you’ve been exposed to potential risks, not whether you’re an experimental lover. Just a little heads up, this definitely didn’t happen to me…

I received my “all-clear” text just this morning and I can tell you that the relief of that message far outweighs the 60 seconds of embarrassment in that nurse’s office or the scratch of the needle from a blood test.

Drop your trousers and get it checked.

All of you.