Words and photography by Sian Irvine
Last year, UV had the pleasure of meeting the powerhouse woman that is Cheyenne Swaby, AKA creator of Let’s Talk Gynae. We sat down with Cheyenne to discuss all things womanhood, periods, and creating a female-forward platform to empower everyone.
UV: Hi Cheyenne! You are one of our favourite girls at Ultravenus. Can you tell us a little about yourself, for those who don’t know you?
LTG: As you mentioned already my name is Cheyenne and I’m 24 years old and I am a qualified registered nurse, freelance hairstylist and entrepreneur.
You are the creator of ‘Let’s Talk Gynae’, which aims to empower and inform women about their gynaecological health. What inspired you to start this?
I started this platform to share my personal story and experiences with various types of gynaecological health problems such as endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, having a dermoid and endometrioma cysts on both ovaries and lastly a retroverted uterus.
I was 17 when I noticed that something wasn’t right with the way I looked. My stomach was growing to the left side with a huge bulge, with no signs of pregnancy. After several months of investigations including ultrasounds and MRI scans, I was diagnosed with a large dermoid ovarian cyst growing on my left ovary. I didn’t have any type of symptoms which was the scary bit. I just looked about 8 months pregnant with an alien growing inside of me. A dermoid cyst can contain features of hair, blood, eyes ect (have a look on Google – warning this isn’t for the faint-hearted). I was horrified. Once I finally had surgery on 3rd November 2014, this absolutely changed my life. The cyst had grown from 13cm to 20cm so instead of day surgery, I had to be cut open which left me in hospital for 2 and half days and 9 weeks recovery time. 2 years later I had to have surgery again to remove an endometrioma cyst on my right ovary along with endometriosis. I was depressed, fed up and very traumatised. It played on my mind I would never be able to conceive with all these reproductive health issues. I didn’t think any of this would happen to teenagers. Little did I know. Within this time, I was in university, studying to be an adult nurse and took an interest in the specialty of urology and gynaecology.
I wanted to not only share my story but empower and elevate other young women like me – to tell their own stories and to not be ashamed about it. I use my expertise and experiences from nursing in the specialty of urology and gynaecology to educate others about the importance of understanding our reproductive health and things to look out for. I want young women to be more in tune with their bodies and embrace every part of us including our amazing reproductive organs and hormones as without them, none of us would exist!
You are a registered adult nurse. How did you get into this field? Was it always a passion of yours?
Nursing has always been my passion. It has been my dream job since the days I was helping to care for my late grandparents when their quality of life had significantly reduced from ill-health. I was always and still am a caring loving person to heart and I just love taking care of people. It really makes my day knowing I saved someone’s life or made someone feel so much better when they were unwell. It’s such a rewarding career and I’m loving every minute of it, despite the challenges nurses face. I love the fact that with nursing, you are learning something new each and every day- training for us is endless and I love learning to help expand my skill mix.
My dream is to become a specialist nurse in endometriosis, to help and support women living with the condition and being apart of research to hopefully find a cure.
Why is it important for women to be so in tune with our gynaecological health?
I think it’s very important for women to be in tune with there reproductive health because if there are any changes or deterioration occurs with the organs related to the female reproductive system, you can notice this straight away. Learning about the different parts of the reproductive system and knowing their functions can help women to feel more comfortable when discussing any problems they may be facing. Visiting your GP can be a very daunting experience and by educating yourselves it could make it easier to talk to someone about any concerns you may have. Being more connected with our bodies gives us more self control.
You have become somewhat of a powerhouse and legend amongst the art, blogging and podcast community. We LOVE what you are doing! Where did you get the idea to blend your passion for gynaecology with a creative flair, such as when you hosted the Paint n’ Sip event?
I love being creative and at times I know teaching others about gynaecology can be quite long and tedious as there’s just so much to learn about that topic. So creating fun and interactive events such as the paint and sip event – painting pictures of the female reproductive system was a fun way of learning about the different parts of the system and their functions. I think it helps us to perceive gynaecology in a positive way and eradicating the taboos around the subject. It allowed us not to be ashamed of continuing the conversations around Gynae health. The hotel edition – the slumber party was just amazing. I really enjoyed creating and hosting this event as again I was able to bring a group of young women together, teach them about different health issues I have faced with my reproductive health and this gave them a safe space to speak out about things they have gone through or someone they may know. I shared different self-care activities and much more! I wanted to blend my passion for gynaecology in a fun way that women can come together and feel safe and share their experiences and gain insights from other stories.
Part of ‘Let’s Talk Gynae’ is being in touch with ourselves, knowing our bodies and minds. Do you have any tips for those who may struggle with this?
My first tip is to educate yourself with the different parts of the female reproductive system and understanding the fundamental basic importance of their functions.
Talk to someone you trust about any concerns you may be facing or go straight to a health care provider (GP), ask for a female doctor if it’s possible if you feel more comfortable talking to a woman instead.
Self-care is very very important. Ensure your looking after yourself including the mind, body, and spirit. When I’m feeling quite anxious with all my PMS symptoms, I have taken up mindfulness to help me to relax. Small touches like DIY facials, body massages etc or even exercising is something I do before and after my period.
REST is essential. I cannot stress that enough. Having low iron levels can be so annoying at times as I feel I don’t have the strength to do nothing. Getting enough sleep is key in feeling less anxious, relaxed and rejuvenated.
Eating healthy but still eating the things you love most in moderation. I’m lactose intolerant. Cheese, milk, and gluten flares up my endometriosis like crazy but these are the things I love most which sucks lol. I try to look for alternatives like nut milk instead of cows milk and vegan options. I’m trying out an alkaline-based food to see if I can minimise my endo flare-ups.
Managing stress is important too. Do the things you love most. Treat yourself when you can and having positive enters around you helps too!
Who inspires you as a woman? Why?
My mum inspires me the most as being her last child at the age of 39 and having reproductive health issues such as multiple fibroids and having heavy, prolonged menstrual bleeding then later being diagnosed with Type2 Diabetes. I just see her as a very strong individual like so many other women who have gone through the same or similar experiences. My mum was told by several doctors they will not cut her as they don’t want any blood on their hands (to remove the uterine fibroids). They were just embedded within her system and she was just left to live with it. The irony about it was that I had to grow with those fibroids. Thankfully they don’t cause her any pain now going through menopause but she is just a superwoman! It’s experiences like this I want to help change. Women should feel supported and not just turned away when they are in need of help from a professional.
What is the most important thing you have learned from your career- gynaecological, or otherwise?
It’s been tough looking after women with gynaecological related cancers. Hearing some of the stories have been tragic, and caring for them until the end of their life was really challenging. But I’ve come to realise this is reality. I’m so happy that more awareness is being made and gynaecology is a trending hot topic right now. It’s finally getting the recognition it deserves but there’s still room for improvement.
I have learned from my career that there is so much to learn about reproductive health and I’m looking forward to what the future holds for the world of gynaecology, and I’m more excited of being apart of the changes and helping to support more women going through the same or similar experiences as I am.
Finally, do you have any words of wisdom to share with our readers or anything to plug?
Continue the conversations of reproductive health including topics around sex, menstruation, period poverty and educating yourselves around gynaecological cancers too.
Don’t stay in the dark if you’re scared to talk about something around reproductive health that you may be unsure about or have concerns. I wish I had gone to my GP a lot sooner when I first found out I had a very large ovarian cyst which nearly caused ovarian torsion. Having so many complications one after the other was very difficult but the most challenging part was not speaking up about my concerns.
Anyone going through reproductive health issues, just remember you are not alone, let’s support each other each and every step of the journey.
Two books I would recommend to read in relation to all things reproductive health and menstruation is The Gynae Geek and Wild Power. These two amazing reads will not only educate you about our precious lady parts but also digging deeper and helping us to tap into the victorious power of mensuration.
I have some amazing events planned this year so follow my Instagram @letstalkgynae for information on tickets and giveaways!