Ever since being diagnosed with cervical dysplasia, I always imagined I’d write this article. I wanted to heal from it so badly. Not only did it take a significant amount of time, it was incredibly emotional for me. Keep in mind that I am not a doctor. Nothing in this article is meant to prevent, treat or cure disease.
Roughly three and a half years ago I went in for a routine pap smear. One of my girlfriends had just been diagnosed with HPV and mild cervical dysplasia and I wanted to make sure everything was good in that department. Knowing that up to 75% of adults have HPV, I specifically told my gyno that I wanted to be tested for it. When I received a letter in the mail saying everything was good, I went on with my life.
Until two weeks later when the office called to tell me not that I had slightly abnormal cells on my cervix, but that I had “precancerous lesions.” Let me tell you what I heard (and why so many women are immediately terrified upon hearing this diagnosis) – “You have cancer.” Seriously, you can’t open with – “You have some abnormal cells.”? You tell me I have precancerous lesions?!
So I went back in for a colposcopy (an exam to more closely examine the cervix) and biopsy. Very little was explained to me.
Do I have cancer? “No, not yet anyway.”
Will this turn into cancer? “Most likely.”
What causes this? “High grade HPV”
I have HPV? My tests came back negative for everything. “You probably do.”
I probably have HPV?
Turns out, they never even tested me for HPV. They assumed I had it because I had abnormal cells on my cervix, but they never once tested.
My results were in and I had CIN 2 cells on my cervix. Better than 3 or 4, not as good as CIN 1. The doctor told me I immediately had to have a LEEP procedure, using electrosurgical excision and a low-voltage electrified wire loop to cut out the abnormal tissue.
It sounded incredibly painful and I was terrified. There had to be another way. I asked if this got rid of the cells for good and the doctor said that they could return. Using my basic logical thinking skills, I decided two things:
1 – If the LEEP procedure removes the cells but they can come back anyway, what’s the point? To cut them away every time until I no longer have a cervix?
2 – A LEEP procedure does not address the root cause of this issue. If we don’t address the cause – it’s going to keep happening.
She told me if I had CIN 1, they’d just monitor my cervix with regular paps to make sure it didn’t progress. So that was my next goal – to not only regress this to CIN 1, but to get rid of it. She gave me three months.
While I ate pretty well at that time, weekends were a free for all. If I wanted wheat, I ate it. If I wanted beer, I drank it. If I wanted a cupcake, I was getting a cupcake. This all stopped immediately. I ate well throughout the week and carried that right on into the weekend. My diet mostly consisted of:
- pastured meats and eggs
- wild seafood
- very low sugar
- tons of vegetables
- healthy fats like grass-fed butter, avocados, coconut oil
- raw dairy
After extensive research, I also started a supplement regimen:
- Indole-3-Carbinol, otherwise known as I3C as well as Diindolylmethane, or DIM, have been shown to be beneficial for the reversal of cervical dysplasia. I3C and DIM concentrated in cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage.
- Folate – some have even suggested that cervical dysplasia is the result of folate deficiency. While I don’t think it’s that simple, there is strong evidence that folate can help reverse cervical dysplasia.
- B12 – folate and B12 work synergistically. A study of Indian women demonstrated that B12 and folate supplementation have a beneficial impact on the prevention of cervical cancer.
- Cod Liver Oil – CLO is a fish oil high in omega-3 fatty acids but it’s also rich in vitamins A and D. Vitamin D is a well known cancer preventative and immune booster. The omega-3s in fish oil reduces inflammation, which is at the root of any disease. What a lot of people don’t realize is that there are two types of vitamin A – retinol (active form) and beta carotene (inactive form that doesn’t convert to retinol very well). Retinol is concentrated in animal foods, like cod liver oil, chicken liver and egg yolks. You’re not going to get much vitamin A from orange veggies (like carrots). One study found that women with high grade cervical dysplasia were found to have vitamin A deficiency.
I had read that the cells of the cervix replenish every 7-14 days. During those three months, I did a lot of positive affirmations and tried to keep a level head. I really believed I could reverse it, I had full faith in my natural remedies.
Three months came and went. Scott was a big help since I’m such a worry wort and he’s naturally more care free. He helped keep me calm. I had made the appointment for my next colposcopy while Scott would be working in LA. I just wanted to get it over with.
Much to my surprise upon showing up at my appointment, they had only scheduled me for a regular pap smear, not a colposcopy. I immediately started crying. In front of people. I didn’t even care. I had worked myself up so much over the appointment, I’d stressed out for three months, I mentally prepared for the appointment and took off work – and they messed up the procedure and wanted me to reschedule?
My gyno relented, though not without making it known she was pissed she’d have to do a colposcopy at 3pm (when the office only schedules them until 2:30pm). After she muttered “What the f*ck.” under her breath, I actually felt relieved. At least I wouldn’t have to take off work again and wait for another appointment.
My previous colposcopy wasn’t painful, just very uncomfortable. This time was different. Everything was rushed. The gyno was much more aggressive. I was already a nervous wreck. I was already puffy from crying so much. I was already beaten down before the procedure even began. Which made hearing this much worse,
“You see that?” She snapped angrily, gesturing toward to screen showing my cervix.
“You still have it!” She almost shouted at me.
I broke down crying again. I asked if we could do the biopsy to see if it was still CIN 2 or if it had changed at all.
And that’s when she aggressively cut off a part of my cervix. It was one of the most uncomfortable pains I’ve ever felt. Whereas it was just uncomfortable before, it was actually painful this time around. She did not care about being gentle. I yelped in pain while two nurses held my hand while I hysterically cried on a table, on my back, my feet in stir ups and my vagina on display. It was traumatizing.
I managed to calm down, get dressed and walk to my car. Where I f*cking unraveled. I couldn’t even call Scott in LA for a good twenty minutes. I couldn’t speak. I was hyperventilating and couldn’t catch my breath. I was sobbing hysterically. I still had it. That’s all I could think. I couldn’t get rid of it and I would have to have my insides cut out and I would have to heal from that and forever have scar tissue on my cervix, potentially making it more difficult to get pregnant and more difficult to give birth. I was losing it.
I managed to call Scott, who calmed me down. But with three thousand miles between us, once I got off the phone, I was a wreck again. In total, I sat in my car crying for an hour and a half.
A few days later, the results of my colposcopy were in. It had regressed to CIN 1. I was so relieved…for all of about thirty seconds. It turned out that my gyno was still pressing the LEEP procedure. She had originally told me that if I tested CIN 1, we would just wait and see. I couldn’t understand why now that I had regressed to CIN 1, why we would have to follow through with the LEEP procedure. She told me that because it was previously CIN 2, we should still do it because it would most likely progress to cancer.
Instead, I researched. I wanted to know the facts.
- Majority of cervical dysplasia is caused by the human papiloma virus (HPV), but not all cases are caused by it (source). I still had no idea if I even had HPV.
- Generally speaking, majority of cervical cancer is very slow growing. Even with cervical dysplasia. It can take about ten years to actually progress to cancer (source) so I figured I had some time.
- Majority of mild dysplasia (CIN 1, like I had) heals on its own.
In fact, according to the National Cancer Institute,
About 70% of ASCUS and CIN 1 lesions regress within 6 years, while about 6% of CIN 1 lesions progress to CIN 3 or worse. In about 10% to 20% of women with CIN 3 lesions, the lesions progress to invasive cancer.
I figured that if 70% of CIN 1 lesions regress within 6 years, and I was already living a healthier lifestyle than most people (I was in school for my holistic nutrition certification at this time) and I was going to take steps to heal naturally as well, then I could do it. I just needed some time.
My gyno’s office hounded me for weeks to get the LEEP procedure. I kept telling them I wouldn’t do it, and they really tried to pressure me and play up the cancer angle. Finally, I firmly told them to stop calling me, stop leaving me messageslif, stop pressuring me – I wasn’t getting the procedure.
Nine Months Later
Nine months went by. I continued with the supplements listed above and I had really high hopes about healing naturally. I scheduled a pap smear at a new office, one that was more holistically minded. Or so I thought.
When I went in for the appointment, I introduced myself to the doctor only to be told she wasn’t the doctor but the assistant. That she would be performing my pap. That I wasn’t even going to meet the doctor. You know when your instincts tell you to run? I didn’t listen.
I explained my history to the assistant. I told her I was pretty traumatized from my previous gyno and the colposcopy. I was so nervous to even get the pap, I was shaking. I explained that I had CIN 2, I had regressed it to CIN 1 and I was hoping to heal it naturally.
To which she responded that it can’t be done. That I should’ve gotten the LEEP. That she would do the same exact thing my previous gyno did. That I couldn’t heal. That it would most likely progress to cancer.
I guess it shouldn’t have been much of a surprise when she not only told me she was going to “scrape” cells off of my cervix, but that she was not gentle when she did. FYI – no woman wants to hear that her insides are going to be “scraped” off.
A couple weeks later I got the results of the pap in the mail – abnormal cells found on cervix. I hadn’t gotten rid of it. Except this time I didn’t break down. I felt nothing.
Three Years Later
Since that last pap, I didn’t go back. Not just to that particular office, I mean that I did not get a pap smear at all. I do not recommend this. I know and knew that I should have been getting regular pap smears, but I was honestly just so traumatized from everything that I’d been through – I just pushed it all into a very small corner of my mind and didn’t acknowledge it.
During those three years, I still ate very well. I switched my supplements regularly. I tried new ones, gave up old ones. I started working with and studying essential oils. I ended up quitting my full-time job to run Ancestral Nutrition (which took an immense amount of stress off of me).
In the time since I got my previous pap in 2012 to my most recent pap, I did a lot of different things on the health and healing front. I kept up with my diet, which again consisted of:
- tons of vegetables, especially cruciferous
- no wheat or grains (excluding white rice)
- bone broth and gelatin
- pastured meats and eggs
- wild seafood
- lots of healthy fat (butter, coconut oil, olive oil)
- fermented foods
- low sugar (hardly any fruit even)
- raw dairy
- fermented foods
Here are some of the supplements I used (I switched them up, I didn’t take all of these all at once):
- cod liver oil
- a multivitamin (formulation changed and I no longer recommend the one i was using)
- DIM + I3C
- dandelion root tea
- bentonite clay
- vitamin C
- desiccated liver
Scott and I are planning on getting knocked up soon, so we went to see a naturopath. This is when the CIN issue came up and she told me what I already knew: that I needed to get a pap immediately. All of my old fears came flooding back. The pain, the terror, the constant worry that I still had CIN, or worse, cancer.
I left her office and scheduled a pap for the next month. Knowing that the cells on the cervix replenish every 7-14 days, I decided to do whatever I could during that time to make sure I was giving my body the best shot.
Here’s what I took:
- DDR Prime
- Cod Liver Oil
- DIM + I3C
- B12 + Folate
- Vitamin Code Prenatal (just one or two pills instead of three)
I made a mix of coconut oil, lavender, frankincense and melaleuca to apply to an organic tampon and use internally. I did this for five days. I applied three drops of frankincense diluted with coconut oil around my pelvic bone, on top of my cervix (lower abdomen) the entire month. (Please note that I am not advising you to do this, using oils internally is no joked and has to be done VERY carefully and under the guidance of a professional.)
“Healthy, healed, beautiful pink donut. I am healthy, I am whole, my cervix is perfect.”
I was told to imagine my cervix as a healthy pink donut. So I did. I was told to repeat these words to myself. I set the reminders because I knew I’d forget otherwise.
And I’d also like to add that during the last several years, my lifestyle drastically went from wild child, party girl, lots of drama, in a horrible relationship to moving out on my own (away from said horrible relationship), calming down, having more fun, meeting Scott, falling in love. I think that meeting Scott played a big role in my healing. I was no longer stressed, angry and resentful in my relationship. I was happy.
I originally scheduled my pap with a midwife whose office was…not very helpful. I’ve heard great things about the midwife herself, but when the day rolled around to go get my pap, I called just to confirm the appointment. They told me she was at a birth and someone was supposed to call me days before to let me know but never did.
So I found a general practitioner that was highly rated on Yelp. She’s from the USSR and had a no nonsense attitude. I liked that. She was straight forward with me, but not overbearing like the other doctors seemed to be. She told me not to worry, if I had CIN still, we’d deal with it. The pap itself was quick and I barely felt a thing. After my history with pap smears, colposcopies and pain – I wanted to hug her but figured that would be really weird.
I’d like to say I was totally calm, cool and collected waiting for my results. The reality is that I was once again a complete wreck. I was still working everday and kept a level head (probably mostly due to Scott being supportive and dousing myself in calming essential oils), but I checked the website where my results were to be posted everyday, several times a day, even though I was told they’d take a week.
They took four days.
NEGATIVE FOR INTRAEPITHELIAL LESION AND MALIGNANCY.
HPV, high-risk Negative Range: Negative
This high-risk HPV test detects thirteen high-risk types
No cervical dysplasia. No HPV. I cried.
I literally broke down crying, but this time it wasn’t because I was freaked out. I was so relieved. I had so much stress built up in me from all of this. I was so worried I’d have to end up getting LEEP, that it had progressed, that it would affect us having a baby. Yeah, I bawled my freaking eyes out.
I’ve literally been thankful everyday since. The magnitude of this isn’t lost on me. I’m not sure if it was time, my lifestyle, my diet or the supplements that worked – but I’m pretty positive it was a combination of all of them. And I’ll never know if I even had HPV in the first place.
I’m proud of myself. I’m proud of myself for taking a stand against aggressive doctors at the ripe ol’ age of 23 and telling them I was going to handle it on my own. For doing the research and trusting my instincts and taking care of myself. I think a lot of people expect doctors to take care of their health when the reality is that your health is determined largely by you alone.
When I was diagnosed, I looked for women like me, who had cured their dysplasia; who turned down conventional treatment. I found a handful on now abandoned websites. I want any woman who has been diagnosed with cervical dysplasia to read this. You’re not alone. Cervical dysplasia is incredibly common but not something that’s often talked about. I’m talking about it. I want to talk about it with you. Comment below, email me or just reach out. Share your story. Let me know if you want to talk.
It’s scary, but you have options. I’m not saying what worked for me will exactly, definitely work for you. But I am saying this is an issue we should be open about. We should share our experiences. We should be there for one another.
I’m here for you if you want to talk about it!
EDITED TO ADD:
While I am happy to chat about this topic, I cannot offer medical advice. I am not a doctor. I cannot offer advice on particular supplements to take or a new diet regimen. Think of it this way – you wouldn’t email a mechanic and say “X, Y and Z is wrong with my car. What should I do?” There’s no way to answer that. There are too many factors and variables. What kind of car? What year? What exactly is the issue? What fuel do you use?
So I, especially having no idea of someone’s background, age, diet, lifestyle, etc. cannot offer blind advice. I work with people to help them improve their diet and lifestyle. But I cannot offer random information on such a very specific topic.
I mean it literally when I say it’s a good idea to find a naturopath to work with. Get blood work. See what’s lacking. Talk to your doctor. If you don’t like your doctor, find another. Get a second opinion. It may be more work, it may be more money, but it’s your health. That’s priceless, ya’ll!