In today’s Coffee Chat segment, we have the privilege of featuring Cheyenne Heflin, a remarkable individual whose journey through pediatric cancer and above-knee amputation has fueled her passion for advocating mental health awareness among children with chronic illnesses and disabilities. Cheyenne has not only triumphed over physical challenges but has also emerged as a powerful voice in the realm of mental health.
As a pediatric cancer survivor and amputee, Cheyenne has personally experienced the trials and tribulations of coping with disability, chronic illness, anxiety, and depression. Harnessing her own experiences, she has dedicated herself to shining a light on the often-neglected mental health needs of children facing similar battles. Through public speaking engagements, written promotions, and collaborations with various organizations, Cheyenne works tirelessly to foster understanding, empathy, and support for those navigating the intersection of physical and mental health.
But Cheyenne’s impact doesn’t stop there. In her unwavering commitment to spreading awareness, she has recently embarked on new creative ventures, exploring the realms of creative nonfiction, blogging, and poetry. Through these expressive mediums, she fearlessly shares her feelings and experiences, inviting others to join her in the journey of understanding and healing.
Building on her remarkable achievements, Cheyenne is set to embark on a new chapter in her life. Starting in August 2023, she will be pursuing a Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling. This endeavor will enable her to directly work with patients, providing them with the compassionate care and support she knows firsthand to be invaluable.
Tyler Wittkofsky’s Coffee Chat segment is honored to have Cheyenne Heflin grace its platform, bringing her unique insights, resilience, and unwavering determination to our audience. Join us as we delve into a conversation with this extraordinary individual, and prepare to be inspired by her unwavering strength, advocacy, and passion for improving the lives of children with chronic illnesses and disabilities.
TW: What are your hobbies?
CH: I love to read and write, which seems pretty obvious. I also love playing videogames, particularly Fromsoftware games as well as first-person horror games.
TW: Do you prefer tea or coffee?
CH: I do like both, but there’s something about a nice cup of coffee that just scratches the right itch.
TW: What is your favorite genre to read?
CH: I love science fiction, with fantasy being a close second. I have always been a technology nerd, so seeing what sort of crazy inventions and such people come up with in their science fiction novels is thrilling. I especially love a good space opera.
TW: What inspired you to become a writer, and how did you get started?
CH: I’ve dealt with a lot of trauma in childhood, but specifically, after I left treatment for pediatric cancer I couldn’t find anyone who had gone through something similar. Sick, disabled, and feeling very much alone, I decided that if I couldn’t find anyone else then I was going to make myself that someone for other people. Thus, the writing was born, though I’ve written a lot of things even before that as a hobby.
TW: How do you handle criticism or negative feedback on your writing, and what steps do you take to improve?
CH: Criticism can be really hard because my writing is all very personal, but I take it very seriously. Usually, if I receive criticism I’ll read it and then take a couple days to process it, away from my writing. That way I can work through any emotions attached to it and come back with a clear head to see what I can do to improve/change the piece. I’m definitely working on this though because sometimes criticism can just hurt. But the more I expose myself to it, the better I’ll get at handling it.
TW: What are your future goals as a writer, and how do you plan to achieve them?
CH: My goal is to publish a memoir about my experiences in pediatric cancer, accepting my disability, etc. I’m slowly building up my repertoire of work with various publications, which lets me get practice in and decide what sorts of themes/ideas I like to write about. I’m also working on building my social/speaking presence in my state to start because I believe that it’s just as important to work on my actual voice as my writing voice.
TW: How do you come up with ideas for your writing?
CH: Since a lot of my writing is based on my real-life experiences, I tend to spend some time just writing down any memories I can think of. Some of them are directly converted into creative nonfiction, others have themes or topics I can pull for a more organized essay or researched post. For fiction, I haven’t really figured out a set way to get ideas. A lot of the time I see a call and just…have an idea spring to mind. So, I’m still working on building a routine for that.
TW: How important is research in your writing process?
CH: I’d say it’s pretty important. Though some of my stuff just comes from my memories and experiences, others are actual topics that I want to be sure I’m being accurate with. Besides that, I am in an academic setting where it’s crucial that I’m up to date on the latest in my field. So, I take researching topics even for my personal writing very seriously.
TW: What is your favorite part about writing?
CH: I love getting to the end of a writing session and just seeing what I created. I mean, those words came out of my head and onto the paper like magic. It’s so inspiring and I love seeing what other writers create for the same reason. You’re never going to find someone who writes the exact same thing as you, and that truly is a magical feeling.
TW: What does the future hold for you?
CH: I’m starting a Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling, with the goal to eventually get my PhD in Clinical Psychology so I can start a clinic. Meanwhile, I’m working on expanding my writing goals and publications, so I can share my story with other people who’s kids–or are/were the kids themselves–dela with chronic illness or disabilities.