With a belief in your body’s inherent regenerative power, coupled with some simple lifestyle choices, you can begin the journey of healing
Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a pap smear come back abnormal?
Raise your hand if you feel strange and funny when you think about your cervix?
Raise your hand if you feel powerless when it comes to your cervical health?
My mission to help women remember their cervix and reclaim this magical body part as their own began thirteen years ago, when at the age of nineteen I was diagnosed with HPV 16 and cervical dysplasia after an abnormal pap smear. I really didn’t know what that meant, and because of my young age, my doctor sent me away with nothing more than a caution to keep watch.
Fast forward four years. The plan to ‘keep watch’ was failing; the HPV 16 virus was still showing up in tests, and the dysplasia on my cervix continued to worsen. In response, the only options my medical providers offered me was the HPV vaccine (which I didn’t quite get how it would help since I already had HPV) and the LEEP (which I scared myself out of by looking at photos and reading stories of the procedure on internet forums).
Annoyed and frustrated by my lack of compliance with these suggestions, the nurse practitioner I was seeing sent me to a hospital to be examined by a well-known OBGYN. While the she was kind and warm, the hospital environment was cold and sterile as I shivered through my seventh colposcopy-biopsy. When the doctor wheeled herself over to my side, she said something that would forever change the course of my life:
“Denell, you refuse the LEEP. You refuse the HPV vaccine. I’m sorry. There’s nothing more we can do for you.”
I went home and quickly puddled onto the shower floor in sobs and tears, feeling like I’d been given a death sentence. In the four years I had been seeing these practitioners, the only thing they told me to do for myself was take the supplements Folate and Lysine. That was it — no suggestions for a course of action other than the treatments I refused.
No recommendations of resources or pathways for self-learning. Not a single word of encouragement that yes, I could reverse my condition on my own.
The only saving-grace I seemed to have was my youth, and in the eyes of Western medicine, even that was failing.
Amid my epic crying in the shower, an unexpected feeling of light emerged within my body. As a glimmer of hope, like a spark, lit up in my chest, I had a thought I’d never had before, one that seemed to grow louder as I began to focus on this new feeling in my body. The thought that was igniting a fire deep within my belly was this: “I can do it myself. Clearly there’s something wrong here, but that doesn’t mean it’s over. I can do it myself. I can heal myself. If my doctors can’t or won’t help me, then I’ll do it myself. I can heal myself. I can heal myself.”
This phrase — I can heal myself — became my guiding light, my chant, my mantra… whatever you want to call it. This thought was the most profound knowing of truth I had ever felt, and I became determined to make it a reality.
Over the next three years, I dove head-long into matters dealing with health, wellness, and natural healing. As I plunged into this research, I realized how little I knew about the cervix, and how little my doctor told me about my condition. That’s why I went back to graduate school to study Integrative Health by immersing myself in the research regarding HPV, cervical dysplasia, abnormal pap smears, and the physiology of the cervix.
One Saturday in the final semester of my grad-program, I received a phone call from a number I didn’t recognize. It was my nurse practitioner on the other line. “Denell, yesterday I got your results from the pap we did earlier this week, and I couldn’t wait until Monday to message you.” I became nervous. Had the CIN 3 worsened and now officially become pre-cancer? Was there something else wrong? I took a sharp inhale as she told me: “Denell, your pap came back normal. The cervical dysplasia is gone, and the HPV is no longer showing up. Your cervix is the healthiest I’ve ever seen! How did you do it?!”
As my nurse practitioner asked me that final question, the light which emerged in my body all those years ago in the shower suddenly lit up like a firework as I released the most ecstatic and joyous laugh I had ever expressed.
Against all the odds and naysayers of my determination, I had done it. I had reversed HPV and cervical dysplasia all on my own, without any help from the western medical providers.
We completed our phone call with my provider saying to come back in a year for a follow-up pap. As I hung up the phone, the euphoria of bliss quickly faded into a new feeling I had yet to feel regarding my cervical healing journey: I felt anger.
I felt angry that for seven years, all the people who I thought could help me did nothing but scare me and try to bully me into their treatments. I felt angry that there were many, things I did for myself and the health of my cervix that I learned neither from all the years of sex education in middle and high school nor from my doctors. I felt angry knowing there were millions of other women who, just like me, receive the diagnosis of ‘abnormal paps’ and are then thrust down a treatment plan that doesn’t take into consideration the actual health of their body and prompts women to fear their cervix. I felt angry, and I needed to speak out.
Cervical wellness is now my outcry for women to rise and remember the power of their bodies.
This includes the radical act of women learning to listen to their intuition in a society where listening to authority has been deemed the ‘normal’ course of action.
So, what can you do to take charge of your cervical wellness?
Here are the 3 most influential lifestyle habits you can adopt to positively impact your cervical health:
The power of the Mind-Body connection is not to be taken lightly. Look up Dr. Bruce Lipton’s work, or read Mind Over Medicine by Dr. Lissa Rankin, and you’ll quickly learn that the thoughts we have regarding our body profoundly impact our physiology. Notice what type of thoughts you have about your cervix and how you feel when you think these thoughts. How do you want to feel about your cervix and your body? What sort of thoughts support those feelings? Choose (yes, choose) to think the thoughts that make you feel good rather than the thoughts that don’t. This takes awareness and discipline, but you are the only one in control of your mind; no one else has any say about how you think.
Movement and exercise are not just about toning muscles or losing weight. Movement of the body (with heart-pumping sweat) is imperative for the health of your immune system, the system of the body that can reverse an HPV diagnosis. Movement and sweating circulate the lymphatic system, which nourishes your immune system. The more you support your lymphatic and immune systems through movement and sweating (saunas are also great for this), the better prepared your body is to fight off the virus. It’s all intertwined.
3. Inward Connection
Call it self-care, self-love, meditation, introspection, or whatever works for you. What matters is time spent just with yourself where you are paying attention to the subtle cues and messages of your body and emotions to better understand the deeper meaning of your diagnosis. Ten different women could all have the same diagnosis, but each woman took unique life-paths to get to that point, so it makes sense that unique lifestyle changes are required to reverse what’s been done. Our body is always communicating with us through feeling and sensation, but to actually ‘hear’ what is being communicated, we must get quiet to be able to listen.
Taking these three suggestions to heart will greatly support you if you choose to take a self-healing path to reverse a pattern of abnormal paps. These three invitations are doorways you can choose to step into today. They are also the foundation of Cervical Wellness as outlined in my book, Informed, Aware, Empowered: A Self-Guided Journey to Clear Paps.
You may also enjoy reading Against All Odds: A Story of Triumph, Perseverance, Healing and Service by Shawn Wells