The time has come for me to talk about genital warts, specifically my experience with them. Why God am I sharing every single part of my life on the internet? Ha!… Wait, I’m not. My experience with HPV and genital warts is a tiny fraction of my life and experiences. Still, it left a lasting impression on my understanding of my body, immunity, and self-exploration. It was a beautiful time in my life to discover that nourishing my immune system can treat HPV and genital warts. For that reason, I’ve always known that this story is worth sharing, and the time has come.
Everything in life is interconnected and woven together even when it appears that it’s not. Let’s continue to follow the threads and discover the patterns. Yeah?
About a decade ago, I contracted HPV (human papillomavirus), which expressed itself in a couple of ways, including developing genital warts, mostly on my upper thigh/groin region.
At the time, I didn’t notice. The doctor informed me of this contraction when I went to the gynecologist for a pap smear. I remember feeling like they seemed annoyed that I hadn’t noticed. Perhaps I didn’t notice the growths because I was often in a state of survival, resulting in a regular state of dissociation. I was deeply unaware of my body, so it was easy to miss details, changes, and growths on my body, even bumpy protruding ones. (This right here is a reminder to heal, ground, and learn to connect to our bodies so we can better support our health) (And also, it’s a reminder to be gentle with ourselves: past, present, and future. We have endured a lot and we are deserving of gentle care)
The gynecologist told me the best treatment was a cream that I would apply at home, on my own, and an acid that they applied topically in the clinic. They informed me that my immune system could take care of warts in good time, but treatment could be the quickest and sure-fire way to take care of them. I consented to both topical treatments.
This journey began over a decade ago, but I remember that the cream didn’t work, and the acid treatment hurt like hell (and didn’t seem to work). According to one doctor, some of the warts were deep, so she had to apply a lot of pressure, and the acid contacted much of the surrounding skin area. Because of this, a lot of my skin managed to burn along with the wart. Ow!
This moment of treatment was upsetting to me, but at the time, I believed this was the best option, so I went with it. I left the clinic crying and feeling disempowered.
After that appointment, not much time had passed, and the warts grew back, then I grew hyper-aware of them. (Side note, shaving can cause them to spread). I hated them. They embarrassed me, and I wanted them gone. Eventually, I went back to the clinic because the warts were still there and because, with HPV, some “professionals” will encourage you to receive more frequent pap smears. I consented to that and showed up. Upon my arrival, I heard a similar story to my first visit: I could receive the same acid treatment as before or wait for my immune system to take care of it. I wondered: When exactly would my immune system resolve this? And How? I wasn’t sure, and turns out, neither were they.
My immune system hadn’t taken care of it yet, so I opted for the burn.
Time passed. The warts grew back.
I returned to the clinic.
I was frustrated. It had been at least a year, and my immune system wasn’t “taking care of them.” I started asking the doctors more questions.
-What can I do in my life to help my body get rid of these warts?
-How can I support my immune system?
-Does diet impact my immunity?
-Does sugar consumption impact my health and immune system?
-What about alcohol?
-What can I do?
(Younger me: so curious, assertive, and capable of connecting the dots without even knowing it. I admire you so, sweet gal.)
I asked these same questions for over a year or maybe two with different medical professionals. Often, I heard an array of answers regarding my immune system, most of which didn’t align with one another.
I heard a lot of “I don’t know.” and a “maybe!” and “yes, sugar affects immunity.” and “no, sugar doesn’t affect immunity.” and “yes, maybe alcohol affects immunity.” and “no, alcohol doesn’t affect immunity.”
Time passed, and The warts were still coming back and staying. I went back to the clinic yet again. I asked another health professional the same questions. Is there anything I can do to support my immune system to help heal and get rid of these genital warts (and HPV)?
I got specific. I asked about the details of my life and lifestyle. Can anything I do in my day-to-day help boost my immunity? Years later, I know the answer is yes, ABSOLUTELY YOUR LIFESTYLE INFORMS YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM. But I didn’t realize this at the time, and no one seemed to know either.
I continued to receive different answers that contradicted one another. Sometimes my questions seemed to bother the pros, so they dismissed them. All of this confusion ended up being a blessing in disguise. The lack of consistent answers among doctors, nurses, and health educators was a clear indicator that I had to take things into my own hands because things weren’t adding up.
Why was the immune system too complicated to understand even for health professionals?
The last time I received that topical acid treatment, I remember feeling the doctor’s emotion as she pressed the acid into my thigh. I remember feeling her annoyance. Was she mad at me, at this STI, at its persistence, or that patients kept coming in with the same problems? Was she angry at my lack of body awareness and inability to get rid of these things? Or was she mad about something that happened at home? It hurt like hell, and I didn’t feel in good care.
She burned a large portion of my thigh, well beyond the wart. It was painful. The massive scar lives on my thigh even to this day. Why was she so reckless with this treatment? Did she learn to apply treatment this way? It wouldn’t be the first time I could feel the frustration of a doctor. I mean, doctors are humans, after all. People can feel my frustration, too, sometimes.
Maybe she was frustrated because she didn’t have answers for me? Or perhaps she felt frustrated by her confusion about the immune system? Were they not taught about this in medical school? I have no idea.
Finally, I started to research on my own time because not only was the treatment administered not working, my immune system, it seemed, was on the fritz and wasn’t taking care of these growths. At this point, it had been a couple of years at least. Enough was enough.
One of the first things I read about warts is that coconut oil, while not backed by significant scientific evidence, has been anecdotally mentioned as a way to treat warts when applied topically.
The lack of (scientific) evidence meant very little to me. If I read about a treatment (that is also in my kitchen and food that I eat) that appears to be safe, that calls to me, and that folks have said works for them (stories are powerful!), I am open to it. What’s the harm? Let’s get curious and explore, right? Food is medicine, yeah?
Yes, and yes.
I trust my intuition, too. I followed it, and first, it led me to coconut oil.
So, I tried the coconut oil by applying it to the top of the warts. And rather quickly, within days, they started to shrink drastically. I applied coconut oil several times a day. Whenever I remembered, I would apply. If I missed a day, the warts grew back just as quickly.
I witnessed the changes in my body right before my eyes. The ebb and flow occurred almost overnight from the simple application or lack of application of coconut oil. It was fascinating. This simple experience taught me something, but at the time, I wasn’t sure what. Was it that my body could change quickly and before my eyes, even with a noninvasive treatment? Even with food from the earth?…….. maaaaaybe…..!?
At the time, It was challenging to keep up with the application. I didn’t have much structure in my life, and I struggled with sticking to any routine, even if it was good for me. In many ways, I had very little respect for my health, but when I applied the coconut oil, the warts shrank. I observed this with my own two eyes. I was learning, slowly but surely, to pay attention to and care for my body.
This experience caused me to get more curious. Was the topical application getting to the root cause of my immunity and my body’s inability to lull the virus into dormancy?
For me, it wasn’t, but it gave me insight into my life and the care I gave my body.
And as mentioned before, I had trouble sticking to routines and had little respect for my health. Well, this was a clue into my immune system.
I did some (more) research and learned about the immune system and what I needed to do to address this part of my health. As it turned out, I would have to consider my lifestyle: Alcohol/Consumption/Diet, Sleep. Stress. Movement, and everything.
(During another chapter of my healing journey, I explored fire cider and food as a means of supporting my immune system…head to this blog post to learn more about FIRE CIDER and this chapter of my life.)
It’s not easy to address lifestyle and make shifts in all corners of our lives. I’ll be the first to admit it. It takes a bit of grit, commitment, and even loss. Sometimes, giving up aspects of our lifestyle can result in losing community or even part of our identity.
For instance, if we spend a lot of time drinking and then decide to cut back or quit altogether, this can result in losing friends we go to the bar with, places we shop, or how we spend our time. A shift such as this can alter how we perceive ourselves and open space to create something new. It’s not always easy. With this change, we can grieve. Perhaps this is one reason why it’s not so easy to do.
Anyway, I didn’t perform a massive overhaul of my life at the time. That would happen much later and in phases, but I did enough to make it work. I focused on shifts in my alcohol consumption, sleep, stress and diet. Hm. Quickly, I learned that my health (and immune system) was in my hands and up to me, and that I am the captain of this ship.
I knew that I couldn’t and didn’t want to handle the treatment the doctors gave me. I feel I was burned too many times, enough for me to draw the line. The experience was painful and exhausting. Also, It wasn’t addressing the problem, at least not for me. At least not directly. I guess it opened me up to a new perspective because it propelled me to take more of my life into my own hands.
They told me that the acid could take several treatments, but even after several treatments, nothing much changed except for the massive scar that I carry. I could have endured more treatments, but for what? Do we have to experience pain like that to heal our bodies? Is it necessary if we can dig deeper and make changes to our lifestyle that have a long-lasting effect? I suppose the choice belongs to each of us as individuals.
I can’t say what anyone else needs in a situation like this, but I want to share my story in case this can act as a guide or at least a little hope if you feel you want to give up on your healing journey. Healing doesn’t happen overnight; this particular healing story in my life didn’t either. When I was making changes to my health and lifestyle, there were times I felt so challenged and alone that I wanted to give up. Community played a significant role in my healing, even the online community, and bloggers who shared their amazing health and wellness journies.
Once I addressed my health and lifestyle, the warts went away, and they have not returned. My HPV went dormant and continues to rest. I don’t know how long it took, but the journey was worth it and was always clearly working. The same thing happened with my lifestyle changes as when I was applying coconut oil: I could see the rise and fall of the growths as I would make positive changes to my lifestyle or take a few steps back and return to old harmful habits.
In the end, I got to the root cause of the issue, and I can feel that in my bones. Not only did my HPV go dormant and has for years, but my entire health has improved. That is the beauty of this active journey. When we address one part of our lives, it ripples through the rest and we develop sturdier ground to stand on.
I know this seems like an oversimplification of the situation. This post is not supposed to be medical advice (nor should it be treated as such). You get to decide what is best for you and when. Always! What I am drawing attention to here is the power of lifestyle and our choices on our health, all of it: mind, body, and soul. Sometimes, the people we go to for medical support do not have all the answers or information, and we must keep searching. Also, we decide how we want to be treated, even in medical settings, even at home.
While this was a decade ago, I have seen some confusion in the media and recent conversations about our immune system and our body’s capabilities. I am no expert on general health, but I am an expert on my health: body, mind, and soul, all of me. After all, I live with myself 24/7. We are all experts on our health, or at least we all have the potential to be experts on our health. It just takes paying attention, getting curious and getting involved!
As mentioned previously, I wasn’t always in tune with my health. I learned to tap in and pay attention to what’s happening with me. It gets easier, and it can even be fun, and paying attention can take us further than we can imagine.
I get curious and know that my body can do anything.
Ask questions, get curious, tap in, and feel your body. Look at it from all angles and observe it. Discover your vessel. Every corner is beautiful and fascinating and full of guidance.
Here’s the thing, If, by chance, one day, these warts return, even though they haven’t been in sight for years. If by chance, my immune system goes through a period of struggle and the virus flares up and warts reappear, which I highly doubt will occur, but if they do, I’ll know exactly where to go first: myself. I’ll look at my life and how I live, and the answers will most likely reveal themselves.
My health is a reflection of my life, after all.