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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sex Basics and Sexual Health » Asymptomatic STI Concerns

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Author Topic: Asymptomatic STI Concerns
silvergirl_sailing_on
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So, I've got university exams coming up (first one on Thursday, gah) and it's been bringing a lot of stressful things up for me. I usually don't have this sort of trouble with exam nerves but there's one of my subjects which I hate and don't understand as well as I used to. I'm dropping it next year but I still need to pass it to get in next year. I think this has been causing me extra stress. I had problems with my nerves when I was younger but I learned to deal with them. However I ended up in an abusive relationship that ended just under a year ago (talked about it here if details are needed, TW for various abusive behaviours http://www.scarleteen.com/forum/ultimatebb.php?/ubb/get_topic/f/37/t/000694.html ) and developed a lot of anxiety issues and what- though never diagnosed- I'm sure was depression. These were resolved very quickly after getting out of the relationship. But recently I've been finding some of these feelings coming back. I know it's nothing to do with my current partner and he's been an amazing support through it. I'm basically certain it's all just "triggered" for want of a better word, by the extra stress about the exams. So if I'm right I just need to get through the next three weeks. Anyway, onto the actual problem.

Well first, due to this anxiety I ended up partly convincing myself I was pregnant. (I'm not. I take HBC and I'm having my withdrawal bleed now. Also since the anxiety was worse the past few days since taking my break week I wondered if maybe hormones hadn't helped the situation.) I resolved it by reminding myself of the statistics and the fact that I'm never more than an hour or two late with my pill (it's microgynon so a combined one.) And of course the withdrawal bleed was the proof. However it also got me thinking about another worry that I've been having off and on lately and it's that that I'm kind of wanting to talk about.

So, since my post about the abusive relationship is really long, I'll just explain that I was pressured into a lot of sexual things not necessarily that I didn't want but that I really wasn't ready for. My ex also told me a lot of lies over the course of the year and a half relationship. I mean a lot. He had invented a whole other life for himself that he had me believing (and went to great pains to make me believe) which involved a job with the army. (He had the uniform and target training sheets and military stuff everywhere and seemed to have a good knowledge of the military. He even called me from "the base in Johannesburg" where he was supposedly on a job and had gone to the effort of somehow having the general sounds of a base, helicopters and sort of comms type radio and whatever. If I still liked him at all I'd cringe for him, I really would.) Anyway! As part of this made up soldier career that he had, he reassured me that this meant that he had regular health checks and this included STI screenings. I was a virgin before I met him so I had never had any.

When I finished with him I questioned him about as many things as I could possibly think of. Ripped apart as many lies as I could. Imaginary girlfriends, stories that had happened to him that when googled were from movies, a mafioso uncle who never existed. It sounds pretty stupid that I believed all this but I was young and naive and not as cynical as I am now. He's a confident liar, what can I say. (I could go into an entire essay about how he checks off all but two items on the abuser checklist from this website and how he checks off 18 out of 20 items on the Hare Psychopathy Checklist- sorry, I'm a psych student primarily- but I won't, you get the picture.) But although he conceded that he had not had STI screens with the army, he had had them through the NHS. Obviously, I can't trust anything he says. However, he's very manipulative and knowing that I by then knew I couldn't trust anything he says could be trying to double bluff me. Additionally, he's self-involved enough that he probably would take care of his own sexual health. Regardless, he's far too twisted for me to have a chance of working any of that out.

So, my question at last. Basically, if we assume that he hadn't been tested, I'm trying to work out where I stand. We almost never used condoms (because I stupidly trusted him) and so in terms of STIs, I know the intercourse was unprotected. It's been about a year since I was last with him sexually. I've never exhibited any signs or symptoms of an STI. He never exhibited any signs or symptoms when I was with him. However, I know that some STIs don't present symptoms. (I know one of these is HPV but in Scotland girls of around 13 get vaccinated against that now for free.) I've since had unprotected (in terms of STIs) sex with my current partner. (He hasn't shown any signs or symptoms either.) I'm absolutely terrified that I've put him at risk. (It's not great that I'm potentially at risk myself but I felt like it was something I should have discussed with him first.) We've discussed it since I started having these concerns and he wasn't angry at all, nor did he seem too concerned really. Basically if it was something which we discovered was an issue we would deal with it together and get through it. I'm more or less looking for an opinion about this. How likely is it that I have some sort of asymptomatic STI? How likely is it that I've passed on that hypothetical STI to my current partner? What STIs are commonly asymptomatic? I know the only way I can be absolutely certain about any of this is to get an STI test through the doctor, but I'm completely terrified (for no rational reason.) Could you also explain to me how these tests are done? I guess I could come to terms with a urine test, but I have a bit of a fear of needles (only in an injection/blood-taking sense) which would freak me out and make it difficult for me to handle- given my nerves about it already- if it involved a blood test. I haven't had any kind of pelvic exam yet. To go on my HBC all that was done were general questions about my health and sexual activity, BMI checks and blood pressure checks. In Scotland, we start getting sent for smear tests at age 20 (which is 2.5 months away for me, though I don't imagine they'll expect me to turn up on my birthday [Razz] ) and I'm really nervous about that too so just all round nerves about the sort of tests that might be done.

That turned out to be a lot more questions than I had intended, so sorry about that. A lot of it I think I just needed to vent about once I started thinking about it all as I got a bit angry. I appreciate any help you can give me and I love the work you're all doing here. Thanks [Smile]

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~Ciara

"Sail on silver girl, sail on by. Your time has come to shine, all your dreams are on their way."

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Molias
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Hi silvergirl,

I can definitely understand why you're angry here! I'm at least glad that you're well away from your abusive ex.

We have a bunch of this info on our site, so I'll give you a bunch of links to check out.
This article lists common STIs and you can follow those links to learn about which ones are often asymptomatic: STI Risk Assessment: The Cliff's Notes
This is a great article about the process of STI testing & why it's important: Testing, Testing... and here's one about getting your first pelvic exam: Your First Gynecologist Visit

A full STI test will, most likely, require some blood. I can definitely sympathize with worrying about that, as well as a first pelvic exam in general, but it's really important to be able to do these things so that you can take care of your health. When you make an appointment or first check in, if you talk to the nurse or doctor about being nervous, they should be able to help calm you down a bit. Maybe you can schedule something extra-nice for yourself afterwards, or plan a special date with your partner, to reward yourself for tackling something scary for a good cause.

Without knowing anything about your former partner's testing history, we can't know how likely it is that you do have an STI, but if he did have one, then it's very possible that he transmitted it to you - and likely that you would have transmitted it to your current partner.
I don't have data on how likely it is for an STI, if present, to be transmitted during any one instance of sexual contact, but over time it's very likely (and if I find that specific data I'll let you know). At this point it really is important for both you and your current partner to get tested, and to go ahead and start using condoms until you've gotten results back.

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OhImpecuniousOne
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Molias and the articles are most knowledgeable about specific STIs, I'm sure. I can, however, tell you about NHS STI tests. [Smile] There have been variations between the places I've been tested (I'll explain below), so I'd suggest you call your local sexual health clinic ahead of time to ask precisely what their procedures are, if you're still worried about it.


The common factors are these. Every city has a walk-in sexual health clinic, usually a bunch of them. You don't need an appointment and can turn up whenever you like, although some of them offer a service where you can book a rough time slot (anonymously) so you don't wind up arriving in the middle of their busy period and hanging around in the waiting room for an hour. You show up and are given a form. By default they don't collect any pesonal info, and they won't access or modify your notes unless you tell them there's a good reason to do so (e.g. you have another condition that's relevant, or you want your GP to have access to your test results). The form asks for sexual history, contact details so they can get your results to you, and a few other medical details. You can usually tell them whether you want to be contacted by phone, text, post etc. In the city I live in now, they give you a number that you can quote if you want to call up early to see if your results are in. Your samples are not labelled with your name.

The first place I went to asked all patients not to pee for two hours before their exam; the second only did that for people with penises. I assume there's a medical reason for the latter, but I've stuck to the advice anyway since I figure that if I do end up having a pelvic exam, even latex gloves probably don't make soggy pubes much nicer.

In my old city - bearing in mind that this was a good five years ago so these practises may be outdated by now - I got the standard sexual history ect. quiz, and a pelvic exam by default (and almost knocked over and destroyed the bed, which I'm sure would have cost a good few thousand to replace and was BY FAR the most embarassing part of the whole thing), a vaginal swab and a blood test done by a nurse practitioner.

In my current city, the exam is more flexible. A pelvic exam is optional; they they don't do it by default if you have no symptoms. Of course, you can ask for one specifically, or opt out of one if they recommend it. I had a short conversation with a doctor about sexual history, menstruation, that sort of thing. I flustered the poor thing mightily when I explained that my girlfriend has a penis and she, turning beet, said "I'm really sorry, I'm just going to have to write that on the form or no-one will understand." The doctor took blood for HIV tests etc., and then I got a self-service vaginal swab kit, instructions on using it, and directions to the bathroom where there was a hatch to pass the sample through (to mystery employees who were talking about where they'd been on holiday or Strictly or something).

Both times I opted to get my results by SMS, so after two weeks the first time and one week the second time, I got a text saying that everything had come back negative. I believe that if you test positive for HIV, they call you so they can offer you support, counselling etc. alongside the result, although not if you've ticked the "Absolutely do not call me" box. They may or may not do that for some of the other more serious STIs.


I know it's kind of scary from afar, but I really recommend that you do go - the only scary bit is thinking about it beforehand. [Smile] They're very aware of how sensitive sexual health can be, and let's face it, the NHS is in the business of doing everything they can to get people tested: so if you wanted someone there for support, or any other measures to make you feel more comfortable, I'm sure that'd be fine. They're very used to needle phobias, and are very considerate and patient about such things. A blood test would be a good idea, if you can stomach it - although you can now have finger-prick tests for HIV, not everywhere does them, and I don't think (though I don't know) that HIV is the only thing they test your blood for.

If you're in a big city and you really, really can't do needles at all, there's probably an occasional dedicated HIV testing session where they'll do rapid finger-prick tests. But that may still leave you untested for other blood-detectable STIs (I'm sure someone smart will comment on that soon).

[ 04-28-2014, 06:50 PM: Message edited by: OhImpecuniousOne ]

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silvergirl_sailing_on
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Thanks so much for the quick response! I'll definitely check oht the links you provided, possibly in the morning since it's almost 1AM here but I'll definitely have a read. My partner read what I had posted as well and has offered to come with me and both just get tested together (well, make appointments together for around the same time since I don't imagine they're going to take us in together haha.) He looked into where to get this all done in our area too. Thanks for the offer about the statistics. If I'm totally honest they're not something I desperately need to see, especially if I'm going to get tested anyway, it's just that I don't feel I can trust a lot of the sources on the internet other than this one. It doesn't help that STI information at my school was largely scaremongering and disgustingly painful looking pictures of cases which had clearly (looking back anyway) gone for ages without treatment. Not the most helpful in any sort of practical way other than scaring kids into not having sex. Which it probably still didn't succeed in. Anyway, thansk for all the information, I'll get on it in the morning. Thanks again for the quick reply too.

--------------------
~Ciara

"Sail on silver girl, sail on by. Your time has come to shine, all your dreams are on their way."

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Molias
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Thanks for that, OhImpecuniousOne! =)
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silvergirl_sailing_on
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I must have been posting my first reply when you posted, OhImpecuniousOne, but a big thanks for your reply too. That really does help a lot with my understanding of what happens. I imagine I can probably pull myself together enough to manage a blood test if that's what's necessary to get the job done. The main problem is that I'm never entirely sure how I'll react to needles in general. Sometimes I'm totally fine and other times I'm really nervous and feel ill. The first and last time I had blood taken I was too young to remember. I'm extremely squeamish about the idea of someone actually syringing my blood out. A large part of the fear is based on being able to feel the needle when it's inside my arm or wherever. I'm not squeamish about blood itself but not exactly overjoyed with someone removing any of mine! [Razz] I don't imagine I'll ask for a pelvic exam and I don't think they'll want to so one specifically as I don't have any symptoms at all. I'll keep my two and a half months of smear free happiness for now haha. Thanks for your help, I'll be looking into going with my partner once my exams are finished. One other thing I wondered was- he's offered to come in with me for the blood test part if it would help (it really would) but I'm just wondering if they'd let him? Possibly this is something is have to ask the clinic staff but I just wondered. Thanks again!

--------------------
~Ciara

"Sail on silver girl, sail on by. Your time has come to shine, all your dreams are on their way."

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Molias
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Going to get tests together is a great idea; I've had partners who've done that and made a date of it. =)

I can be pretty squeamish about needles but I find that as long as I'm not looking at the needle while blood is being drawn, I'm fine. I'm not sure about staff letting your partner in with you, but it certainly wouldn't hurt to ask.

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silvergirl_sailing_on
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Hi, just wanted to talk about it a bit more. I've read all the information you gave me and it was really useful. Also went looking for some more information (NHS websites only) and I'm really trying to come to terms with it. We're definitely going to go though. We're going to ask about my partner coming in with me too. I'm not really sure where the needle fear comes from but I've decided I might make myself watch it so I can maybe get over this. (Partly because I'd really like to donate blood next time the bloodbus comes to my uni, but I feel with the level of nerves I have surrounding it at the moment I'd be more of a hindrance than a help.) I'm probably going to need injections/blood tests more at some point in life, regardless of how this goes so it would be a sensible thing to get over I think.

So now it's really just dealing with the fear of what the results will be. We haven't booked an appointment yet, because I need to wait until after my exams, I'm under too much stress just now to add that into the mix and as well it's time that I really need to be using to study. Much as I know a lot of STIs are asymptomatic, I'm trying to convince myself that I would've seen some sort of a sign since it's been over a year since I had sex with my ex. (I know that's not necessarily the case at all but it's helping me calm down until I get tested.)

Since obviously I'm not having any symptoms at all, it's really just the emotional aspects of it I'm struggling with. I know almost all the STIs are treatable if they're caught early enough- would I be right to assume that before any symptoms have shown is still early enough even though in terms of actual time, a lot has passed? My biggest fear is HIV because I know it's not actually curable, only treatable.

I'm just really angry with my ex and with myself. He was pretty abusive and was particularly cruel in terms of sex, I feel. He pushed me to do so many things I wasn't at all ready for and always belittled me and made fun of me, especially about how I was during sex and put me down. We attempted to use condoms three times. One of them the lubricant coating irritated me. The other two broke and he pushed me to keep going without them (I was on HBC) and I went along with it because it was my first couple of times and I'd had no experience before and was stupid enough to trust him. I know it's my own fault regarding not using condoms with my current partner(or joint fault) but I didn't really realise that so many STIs were asymptomatic (or that any were really, I'd been educated on a diet of massive sores and pus and various body parts not even related to the genitals entirely falling off). It sounds like I'm avoiding the blame for this but I do know that some of it is my own. At least in the relationship I'm in now anyway. I guess I just needed to vent about it.

Much as I'm really hoping I get all negative tests, I'm really glad I found this site or I don't know if I would've thought about getting any sort of check up at all, so at least if there is anything they should identify it and I can fix it before there's any sort of enormous problem. It still really freaks me out that something can be really wrong with your body and you have no idea without a test but I guess that's the case with a lot of conditions even excluding sexually transmitted ones.

I was also wondering- if diagnosed early enough, is it usually a course of antibiotics to treat STIs? My other main concern is that if I do test positive for anything I really don't want my mother to know about it. At all. Antibiotics can be hidden easily enough and taken at the appropriate times without alerting her but if it's more complicated than that this could be tricky. I just really hope I get negative results. I've all but convinced myself I've got something really horrendous and I could've passed it on to my current partner. I feel really guilty and angry with myself and he keeps reassuring me and he's not angry with me or anything because he knows about all of the abuse in the previous relationship and understands why I didn't realise it before and why I hadn't talked about it but I just feel really bad. He's been so understanding and supportive and I just feel like I've put him in a really horrible situation.

Anyway, sorry, I really needed to vent. I guess I should get back to studying for my exam tomorrow for a subject I can't do [Razz]

--------------------
~Ciara

"Sail on silver girl, sail on by. Your time has come to shine, all your dreams are on their way."

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OhImpecuniousOne
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Another thing that might help you say calm through exams is to remind yourself that even if you do have something, waiting the three weeks, or whatever it is, until the end of exams to find out isn't going to make any difference, either to diagnosis or treatment. When you find yourself thinking about whether or not you might have an STI, you can tell yourself that you'll know soon enough. When you then start thinking that maybe you should find out NOW, you can tell yourself that knowing then is just as good as knowing now. [Smile]

If you go back to this article from before - http://www.scarleteen.com/article/abuse_assault/sti_risk_assessment_the_cliffs_notes - each of the STI pages linked there explains how that particular STI is treated. I think you're right that most of them are antibiotics or other pills. Just think - at least you're not in the US, where your parents would see "STI test" pop up on their insurance bill.

Good luck with the exams! I'm currently procrastinating over a paper. *cough*

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silvergirl_sailing_on
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Thanks, that is helpful. Knowing then will certainly have to be good enough for me haha. Thanks, I'll check that out. Might wait til after the exam tomorrow since I should seriously be studying [Razz] Thanks for the info about the treatment, I know it's anitbiotics for chlamydia but I wasn't sure if the same applied for the rest. In most senses regarding healthcare I'm extremely glad I'm not from the US, it's a complicated system to understand haha but yes, that would be an issue for me. Thanks a lot! Good luck with the paper, fellow procrastinator [Razz]

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~Ciara

"Sail on silver girl, sail on by. Your time has come to shine, all your dreams are on their way."

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Heather
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Just an important note that waiting weeks for treatment if and when there is an STI can actually make a BIG difference, including the difference between winding up with pelvic inflammatory disease - which you are basically stuck with for life if you develop it - or other complications from an untreated infection and not. So not no big deal to wait, it is a big deal, and a couple weeks without treatment can make a big difference to your health.

So, waiting if and when you think you may have an infection, for so many reasons, is not ever a good idea if you can help it.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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OhImpecuniousOne
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I'm sorry - you're right of course, and I phrased that far too generally. I didn't mean to suggest that in general, a few weeks is nothing to worry about. But in this case, where it's been a very long time since any possible exposure, the OP has no symptoms, and there's a good reason to wait a defined, short time (rather than than the OP saying "I'll do it soon"), I would think as a non-expert that the chances of that wait having serious consequences are relatively low compared to other situations - but never zero. I might still be wrong, of course. [Smile]
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Heather
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Truly, no matter what, as sound healthcare advice, we simply will always advise to get care or testing sooner rather than later. Especially if it has already been months or more since possible or known exposure.

Being asymptomatic is a nonissue here, since most of the time, with most STIs, people will not actually have noticeable symptoms. So that just really is not relevant with this group of infections.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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silvergirl_sailing_on
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Thanks for the extra advice Heather. It's really going to have to wait for now, but the exams are over in three weeks and I can sort it out after that. Right now, the exams are causing me far too much stress to (a) add another stress factor into the mix and (b) take very much time at all away from my studies. I do understand though that in terms of getting the best healthcare the best advice is to go as soon as possible. It's just that as soon as possible for me is after these exams.

I should point out however that I don't think I have an infection for any reason other than I really don't trust my ex. I have no specific reason to believe he cheated (but I don't trust him), he told me he tested negative (but I don't trust him) and he said he had always used condoms in the past (but I don't trust him.) He could have potentially had no sexual contact when we got together and lied about that too, but basically the issue is that I have absolutely no way of knowing which things are true and which aren't.

My physical health is important to me of course, but to be honest, my mental health is more important to me, and it's an extra thing that I really can't deal with just now. If I took the time to get it done before the exams are over, tested negative and then didn't do so well in the exams, I'd be furious with myself for prioritising that. If I got it done before exams and tested positive and didn't do so well in the exams, I'd be dealing with two bad things. This way at least I have a chance of doing well in the exams. Then if I test negative, everything's good, and if I test positive at least I know my exams got the best shot I could give them and I'll only have to deal with one thing at once.

I won't be waiting long after the exams, it's my main priority once they're done, but for now, everything is taking a back seat to the studies. I wish it didn't have to be like that, but I don't think the exam board will take "I got really paranoid that I had an STI and didn't study because I was too busy panicking about needles and away getting tested" as a valid reason for appealing a bad grade. If I thought they would, believe me, I'd be booking an appointment right now. But without some kind of diagnosis of an anxiety disorder I don't see them accepting it. They seem to be quite strict.

I feel like I might be coming across as really argumentative so I just want to apologise if I am, as that's really not what I'm intending, I'm just really stressing out about so much right now and I don't know if I'm wording this very well. So I'm sorry if I seem kind of tetchy in this, I just can't even tell for myself anymore how this is coming across. I'm really grateful for all of the replies and advice. [Smile] If I'm totally honest, with all the exam stress, a lot of my anxiety and depressive feelings (not going to call it depression since I was never diagnosed so I don't know) are coming back and I don't feel like I'm coping as well as I'd like to be. So thanks for the help and advice, facts are what I needed. [Smile]

--------------------
~Ciara

"Sail on silver girl, sail on by. Your time has come to shine, all your dreams are on their way."

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Heather
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These all get to be your choices, on your timeline.

I simply added what I did to correct something else posted in this thread that was awfully close to some health misinformation so you had the best information to make your choices with. [Smile]

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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silvergirl_sailing_on
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Thank you, I do appreciate that, I'm trying to get as much information as possible about this while still trying not to scare myself half to death! [Razz] So all information and advice from you is greatly appreciated [Smile]

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~Ciara

"Sail on silver girl, sail on by. Your time has come to shine, all your dreams are on their way."

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