It was in my first year of Medical School at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. I was 21 years old and I was well intentioned but immature and sheltered. I implore the reader not to judge my story too harshly.
As I wrestled through the grueling first year I developed an infection on my eyelid ( a stye). I had never had anything like this happen before. I was totally freaked out! I had difficulty seeing through my left eye and had to study for an exam the next day. I walked into the health center and unloaded my burden onto the attending doctor. I looked as he wrote in the paper chart, “21 year old anxious black female”. I felt misunderstood and was reticent to say much more after that. I needed this thing gone and took the antibiotics given and asked nothing about what had caused the eye infection or other ways to manage this large, uncomfortable pimple on my eyelid.
In my mind I kept thinking, “Who wouldn’t be anxious having that thing on your eye the day before a test?”
As the days went on the stye began to resolve but another issue arose. I was in need of care but was not about to go back to the health center. I was scared they would now label me as a regular. My vagina was on fire. It was itching and burning and all I wanted to do was scratch. I had never been sexually active and so was not worried about a sexually transmitted infection but had no idea what else would be causing this assault on my private area. I assessed my toolkit and recognized that based on the symptoms I was feeling: hot and burning sensation, the best way forward seemed to be a fan.
I called in for a medical consult with my older brother who was a year ahead of me in medical school. I told him the whole story of the stye, the antibiotics and now the fire vagina. I told him the only relief I had found was sitting with a fan between my legs. I inquired on any thoughts he had to help rid me of this terrible feeling. In true big brother form he replied, “Fan sounds good to me”. Suffice it to say I suffered without medication and had no idea at the time how easily this could have been managed.
It was my first experience with a yeast infection. It had been caused by taking the antibiotics given to treat the stye on my eye. I had no idea this was something that could result from taking antibiotics. In time I have come to understand the pH balance in the vagina and the role of the bacteria Lactobacillus in helping our digestive system and the vagina stay in balance. This could have been the same story had I used a scented body wash to cleanse the vagina, changed my laundry detergent or kept on gym clothes for too long after a workout.
As a young woman I was so unaware of my vagina and the things that affected it. I hope this story gives a chuckle but even more I hope it prompts you to consider how you care for your vagina.