A Partner’s Perspective On Herpes- Richard’s Story
Contributing Author- Richard Schuh
I am the luckiest man alive. I have the good fortune to wake up every morning to see, and be, with my wife Kelly. You may know her as Dr. Kelly Martin Schuh. Yes, the herpes doctor.
I’m so proud of her for so many reasons. Number one, because she made the choice (with my support) to not hide behind a pen name when she wrote her book. Why? Because she has nothing to be ashamed of and it would be inauthentic to her message.
If you have read her book, Kelly contracted the herpes virus in a manor that most people don’t realize is even possible. Another reason I’m so proud of her is because she did not let this one event define or confine her life.
Kelly said to me one day, “I wish there was a community of women supporting women with herpes.” As Oprah would say- “An aha moment”
That’s how pinktent.com was born. I’m so proud & inspired by her courage, strength and grace in giving women worldwide a safe place to find community, education and inspiration around a very difficult subject.
My wife is uniquely qualified to be the accidental expert. She is a woman, doctor and carrier of the H virus. Yes, my wife has herpes. The entire world knows. Who cares! And guess what? Much of the world’s population also has herpes and 85% don’t know it. This is wrong. I call it a crisis. If a woman is sexually active, she needs to know the facts about herpes. Why? Because 1 in 6 men and 1 in 4 women in her potential dating pool has it!
News flash: Guys are clueless. They think it’s a rash or jock itch. How many guys do you think are going to voluntarily go into a doctor’s office for anything? Much less an STD test. Ladies, it’s up to you as a community of women to have these conversations with the women in your life about the prevalence of herpes. Guys certainly are not going to do it. H does not discriminate. It effects us all equally and has no regard to our race, class, age or education.
Herpes is everywhere. It is a part of a family of viruses that are so common. Those Blistex commercials on TV? Cold sores. What are cold sores? HSV-1 or type one herpes simplex virus, the same virus that can cause genital herpes. Does the commercial mention herpes? No. Those commercials for shingles? Once again, a member of the herpes family of viruses known as herpes zoster. Have you ever had chicken pox? It’s a form of the herpes virus known as herpes varicella. You are not alone. Why are women not having these conversations? Guys certainly are not.
People want to know how I felt when Kelly told me. Let me be clear. I was blown away. I was blown away by her integrity to tell me before we made love for the first time. I was blown away by how calm she was. It was a Sunday night and we just had an awesome day together. We had talked about a wide range of things all day long. We had been dating for about a month and we were talking about our first road trip to Sante Fe, New Mexico.
She eased into it by telling me she loved me. I had already told her first and we talked about how well everything was going. She asked as many questions as I did on a wide range of subjects before she told me, so it was very much a two way conversation.
Tip: Never tell a dude “We need to talk”
How did she tell me? Kelly asked me for confidentiality. She told me she cared enough about me to tell me- “I have herpes”. If I could describe my reaction, it would have been one word. Shocked. I knew she was not promiscuous. She told me how it happened and then said “this is what you need to know…”. She gave me the facts and the rates on transmission as calm as could be.
I was shocked to learn how hard it would be for her to pass herpes on to me with the right precautions. Kelly told me how herpes has no cure, but that she had learned how to very effectively manage her symptoms. It really came down to that if she had an outbreak that I would be the first one to know and that we would simply abstain till it passed. I looked at it as no different that her menses. Everything else would be normal; and it was and still is.
Kelly asked me if I had ever been tested for STD’s and I had. I had just moved to Boulder and my doctor just did a full panel of blood work. I learned later herpes is not included in a standard STD blood panel. The why to that one is total babaganoush, but that’s another subject.
I was happy and healthy. Kelly said she wanted to move forward in our relationship, but from a place of full disclosure and integrity. She wanted and needed to tell me about her “health history”.
She gave me space for a day or two and I came to my own conclusion. I would have a 1-2% chance of getting this? I take greater risks in my business and everyday life! I loved this women and we had just established a level of emotional intimacy that I had never known before. We had opened up a level of communication where we could talk about anything, on any level, based on trust and respect. That’s a pretty good way to start a relationship in my book.
As I had revealed in her book, I had my own stuff. I had abused alcohol and had a drinking problem for years. I was two+ years sober when I met Kelly on March, 9th 2008. No treatment. No meetings. No story.
On January 1st, 2005, I didn’t know what I was going to do. I just knew what I was NOT going to do. I had one thing on my “Do not do list” – Don’t drink. Then I tried something I had never tried before. I gave myself permission to treat myself better than I had even done before. My first 6 months of sobriety was pure hell, but I kept moving forward. My silver lining was the life I had always imagined that I’m living now. I had made it through to the other side and I thank my lucky stars everyday.
I know Kelly would not have given the OLD ME the time of day. I might have gotten a coffee date, but that’s about it. I’m now in my 12th year of no alcohol, no prescription drugs and no sleeping pills (with one bump in the road). I choose sobriety. I don’t stay sober for anyone but myself. All I know for sure is, life is a whole lot easier.
I love this quote from one of my mentors- “People (especially guys) totally overestimate what they can do in a short amount of time. As well, we totally underestimate what we can do over a long period of time.” (10+ years) Tony Robbins.
Use this moment in time as an opportunity to reset your life. Don’t expect anything significant in a day, a month or a year. Where could you be in 5 or 10 years? How about 20!
I proposed to Kelly on my birthday, September 9th, six months to the day after I had met her. Our good friend David had set us up on a blind date. We were married the following summer on June 20th, 2009. All of our friends and family, plus the caterers, photographers and musicians said it was the most fun wedding they had ever been to. We got married in a light rain and then rocked the big tent with 85 of our best friends all night long.
Our daughter Maddie Piper was born the next year on July 5th, 2010. I’m the luckiest guy. I won the lottery- Twice.
So how does herpes effect our lives? It doesn’t. If Kelly has an outbreak we deal with it. How do you erase stigma? Talk about it.
For those of you who have read Live, Love, and Thrive with Herpes, you know how this story ends. Seven years ago after I was in a state of high stress from my business, I had a strange rash you-know-where. I asked Kelly what it was and she said instantly- “herpes.” My instant reaction was – no way!
Now I know the common assumption would be that Kelly gave it to me, but I had been having this same rash, in the same place, once or twice a year since college. I was actually able to trace it back to the person who probably gave it to me. Remember when I said guys are clueless? Count me in. I was never able to put 2+2 together. I have had herpes for over 30 years. I’m part of the 85% of people who have herpes, but did not know it.
In closing, Kelly is the smartest, healthiest and happiest women I have ever known. I’m a very lucky man. I get to be her husband. That road trip to Sante Fe? It was the best 3-day date ever. We’ve been together ever since that day. We will celebrate 8 years of marriage this June. Maddie, our daughter, will be 7 in July.
Sometimes our darkest moments in life can give us the greatest opportunities for growth. Kelly took her darkest moment and made the choice to light it up with the brightest light to create the real cure for herpes. Community.