Transcript: Beating Breast Cancer At 38 and How to Succeed At Freelancing with Javacia Harris Bowser

Keisha Blair: Welcome to the Holistic Wealth podcast. I’m your host, Keisha Blair, wife, mother of three, author of Holistic Wealth, and founder of the Institute on Holistic Wealth. This show will showcase various experts in the key pillars of holistic wealth. Each week, we deliver the best information on how to become holistically wealthy and live your best life.

Today, I have a very special guest with me. I have Javacia Harris browser and Javacia is an entrepreneur, a freelance writer, she’s a blogger, and she has written for various national media outlets, including Birmingham magazine, Good Britain magazine. She is the founder of See Jane Write. And she’s been doing lots of things with her community on freelance writing, and she’s also a breast cancer survivor. Welcome to the podcast Javacia. It’s great to have you here.

Javacia Harris Bowser: It’s great to be here. Thank you so much for having me.

Keisha Blair: So I would love for you to share your story. There are so many things that just really stood out for me with your personal story, both of us have endured setbacks. You’ve made transitions, you were in teaching and then went to freelance writing. I would love to hear about your journey with that and kind of how you got started.

Javacia Harris Bowser: As you mentioned, I was a teacher. I was a teacher for 10 years, and then in 2019, I left the classroom to do writing full time, and it wasn’t really a new career because I was, it was really going back to what I did before I was teaching. So, before I was teaching, I was a staff reporter for a weekly newspaper in Louisville, Kentucky. And so, I did that for several years. And then I went to teaching and while I was teaching, I was freelancing on the side. I was freelancing for several different publications on the side. And I also had started See Jane Write, which is a website and community for women who write and blog. I was really juggling three careers, really with writing, freelance writing with teaching and leading, right. And it really just got to be too much and I had to choose, and it was very difficult choosing because I loved teaching. I loved being in the classroom, but I realized that I could still teach in a way through See Jane Write, because basically I teach other women how to start a writing career. I could still teach through that obviously I miss my students, but I still get to teach through See Jane Write, and then of course writing has just always been a love of mine.

My first love, I always say, in addition to freelance journalism, I also write essays. I used to write poetry, not as much. But I do write a lot of essays, I have an essay collection coming out in January of next year. So yeah, the transition was hard just because I loved everything I did, but I had to do it because it was just getting to be too much.

Keisha Blair: Okay. Sounds reasonable. And for sure, that sounds like a lot in terms of the transition, let’s say there’s audience members listening in and they want to know how to transition well into freelance writing. Are there any tips that you could share for them based on your experience, working with your clients on, how to start and get their foot in the door, especially with COVID-19? I feel like so many people have lost jobs, and they’re looking for things that they can do to earn an income. So I’m just wondering if you have any advice on that?

Javacia Harris Bowser: Yeah, absolutely. I would say if you do want to make that transition and do this full time, don’t just quit your job. And in that preparation time, figure out what kind of writing you want to do. There are so many different ways to make money as a writer, you can be a technical writer. You can do freelancing for companies and organizations where you write content for their website or their promo copy or their newsletter or whatever, or you could do freelance journalism. Like I do, I do a little bit of both of that stuff. I do mostly freelance journalism, but I do some freelance writing for companies. Figure out how you want to make money as a writer, you could be a ghostwriter, you know, figure out what you want to do. And then start lining up jobs while you still have your full-time job. Right? So start lining them up, start making connections, building relationships. That’s the most important thing is building those relationships. And then once you feel like you have enough content, reach out to them and let them know your plan.

So before I quit, I reached out to a lot of the publications that I was writing for and I asked them, because I had already calculated exactly how many stories, I needed, per month to make the money I needed to make. And so I reached out to those publications and asked them like, Hey, do you think I could write X amount of stories for your publication per month? So once everybody said yes, then I knew that it was safe for me to take that leap.

Keisha Blair: And that’s a good plan. You know, that I think many people forget is figuring out how much you need to make per month. And then working backwards, right? With getting commitments. And that was amazing that you were able to get those commitments even before taking that leap, which I think is also important because I think people do the opposite, which is, you know, they take the leap and hope for those commitments. So that’s also good. And so I’m guessing that with your diagnosis, when you got breast cancer, that also helped in terms of having that flexibility that you needed, right? To be able to go for your treatments, do everything you needed to do. Can you tell us a bit about how that part of it worked out for you?

Javacia Harris Bowser: So I went, full-time freelance in the middle of 2019, and then in January of 2020, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and of course, I was angry, then scared. I was just mad because I was like, I am, you know, trying to enjoy my new life full-time freelancing, and now this happens, but you’re right, because of that flexibility with my schedule, it was so much easier to go to treatment and I had surgery and all of that stuff. I can’t imagine going through cancer treatment as a teacher, I mean, I know plenty of teachers do it, but I can’t imagine, I don’t think I would’ve been able to do it. So having that flexibility was very, very helpful, but I did worry initially about money because I worried that I wouldn’t have the strength and when you’re a freelancer, there are no sick days. So I was really worried about that, but a great story that I like to share is that 2020, even though that was my first full year, full time freelancer, even though that was a tough year, I went through cancer treatment and even though it was the year that the world was going through a pandemic, in spite of all of that, I made more money in 2020 than I ever had before. And so a lot of people ask, well, how did you do that? I think I’m a woman of faith, so I think, but on the practical side of things, cancer treatment forced me to work smarter, not harder as people say, meaning that I had to be very strategic about getting jobs that paid well and it worked.

Keisha Blair: It’s amazing. And it’s amazing that you were able to just pivot to implement that right away, which is amazing. So, there are two things, like, I honestly want to hear more about your story about when you got your diagnosis and how you were able to cope in terms of your health. And then of course, I want to come back to that point that you made just a while ago about implementing a strategy that worked, that allowed you to kind of bring in more but work less. And of course, as a black woman, I’ve known other black women with breast cancer. I have several aunts in my family, you know, on the maternal side who’ve been diagnosed, one passed away that was dare to me. She was almost like my mother, a second mom to me, fairly young too. And I just want to get your thoughts, like, can you walk us through your feelings, your process, how it unfolded for you and you’ve come through it. And which is amazing, you know, and you’re striving and you’re able to inspire others.

So I just wanted to hear about your story of overcoming it. What was it like going through treatment for you as a young woman in the prime of your life? And I know these things happen. My husband died when he was 34. I mean, I know how it is in the prime of your life. To be like, okay, I’m just starting here. What’s going on. So can you walk us through, you know, kind of what that was like your treatments? Was it an aggressive form and when it was diagnosed or was it, you know, like really early?

Javacia Harris Bowser: So, it was stage two and, you know, it was crazy how it happened because I was diagnosed at 38 and. The state, you typically aren’t screened for cancer until 40 some places don’t bring you until 45, but my primary care physician wanted me to get a mammogram early just to establish a baseline because I do have family history and honestly I put it off because I was like, well, I’m at 40 yet. I don’t know. But then finally in January of 2020, I said, okay, let me go on and get this mail gram that she keeps bugging me about.

So, I go in for the mammogram and they’re like, uh, we need to do it again. And so they do it again. And then they say, oh, we need to do an ultrasound. I’m like, okay, what’s happening? So, then they say, okay, you need to come back for a biopsy. So, I came back for a biopsy and then a few days later they tell me.

Keisha Blair: Oh, my gosh.

Javacia Harris Bowser: So yeah, so it happened very fast. It came completely out of nowhere. We will get that mammogram. It was just another thing to check off my to-do list. You know, I had no idea that that mammogram was going to completely change my life. As I mentioned, when I first got diagnosed, I wasn’t scared. I didn’t cry.

Like my doctor came in with a big box of tissues for me. Okay. Well, we got to do instantly just went into fight mode, like, okay, what do we have to do? And initially, I was told that I was just going to need a lumpectomy and radiation, but after the lumpectomy, they saw that the tumor was more aggressive than they thought.

And so they recommended that I have chemo. And so that changed a lot of things because I initially wasn’t going to tell anybody, obviously I told my husband and my close family and friends, but I wasn’t going to tell him about it. But once I found out I was going to have to have chemo, I knew I was going to have to tell people, even though the pandemic had us all at home, right. I’m very visible on social media. And so people were going to see me and, um, people who know me well know that. Free chemo. I had extremely long, extremely thick hair. And so to go from that to no hair, to notice that, and I wasn’t going to do a week cause I just don’t have to pay for it. So, um, because of the chemo, I knew I was going to have to tell people.

And so I quote-unquote, went public a few days before my first chemo. And I’m so glad that I did because one, the outpouring of support was just mind-blowing. I mean, I, my husband was actually talking about it the other day. He was like, remember the chemo days when there was a package, a court day sending me things every single day.

That’s amazing to me. So the outpouring of support was just the main, but another reason I’m glad I share is I went public. My story was able to help so many other women, all of these other women who were, who had gone through breast cancer or recurrently going through it. And I didn’t even know. And they started reaching out to me for, for help.

You know, they had questions. And that, and that continues even today, still able to give women encouragement and support and yeah, so I’m just really glad that I did because it enabled me to help other women.

Keisha Blair: Absolutely. And you know, from my experience with my family members and friends and other women in particular black women, we always hear, it always strikes us more aggressively, you know, breast cancer. And I don’t know if you’ve experienced that or heard of that because you mentioned that it’s also in your family, but for black women, like we face particular challenges already, you know, in terms of the wage gap and the racial wealth gap and there’s all these gaps, right. And like barriers everywhere. And I’m in Canada, you’re in the U S and it’s pretty much the same, you know, with the barriers we face. So did you find in terms of your health or how, I mean, how aggressive it was that you heard from women? That this was the case as well?

Javacia Harris Bowser: So most of the women that have talked to me, and some of them black and white, most of them, I would say theirs is probably about the same as mine, but I will say this once, that through treatment, I turned my attention to learning all I could about cancer and that included doing advocacy work, particularly for women of color, because even though white women and black women get cancer, breast cancer at around the same rates. Black women are more likely to die from breast cancer. And this is usually the case because it’s usually by the time it’s found, like you were mentioning by the time it’s found in black women, it’s further along and also black women are typically not treated fairly.

And I was really fortunate in that my medical team is outstanding, just incredible. And, they listened to every word I say, they take everything I say seriously, they don’t just miss any complaints that I have. I mean, they’re just phenomenal. And that was one of the things that actually made me want to get into advocacy work because as I was going through treatment, I kept saying to everyone, I’m so lucky. I’m so lucky.

Javacia Harris Bowser: Every black woman, every person period, but every black woman should have this experience that I’m having. I shouldn’t not feel lucky this norm. And so I’m involved with an organization called hire Lily foundation. They do a lot of advocacy for women of color related to breast cancer, so yeah, I’ve gotten really passionate about that because not because I had a bad experience, but I had a great experience and every black woman deserves that. Absolutely.

Keisha Blair: Absolutely. And that’s amazing. And I love that. Because you’re right. We all deserve that. And so the second part of my question about really structuring, you know, in terms of the financial aspect and really structuring your goals, like your financial goals, to allow you the time and the space to not have to put in more work and to focus on your own health. I really loved the point you made about being very conscious about your rates and what you were charging and where you were writing so that you could achieve those goals.

And I’m certain, you know, that if audience members are listening in and are going through a chronic illness, going through any type of life transition like that. They’re probably wondering, wow, how do I do that? Because that sounds like where I need to be. So if you could tell us a bit more about your experience with that and how you were able to do that so that you could get the time, you know, that you needed not to necessarily work harder, but to actually work a bit less, you know, and, and still earn what you need. It would be great to hear your experience and tips and strategies for how you were able to do that?

Javacia Harris Bowser: I do two types of freelance writing. I write for publications. And then I also write for businesses and nonprofits and typically that writing for businesses and nonprofits that pays better than then publications. But that is my love of writing for publication is what I love to do. So that’s why I continued to do it, even though it doesn’t pay as well as freelancing for businesses. And non-profits, so what I had to do was I had to do more of the freelancing for businesses and non-profits, and less of the freelance journalism, even though the freelance journalism is what I love, you have to do way more of that. Right. And I just simply couldn’t do that while I was going through treatment. So I had to do more of the freelancing for businesses and nonprofits. And I also was fortunate enough to get connected with a new publication, I started writing for a new publication in new, not as in it’s a new publication new to me. So I started writing for this other publication that does pay well and so that helps a lot too. And the publications that I write for that don’t pay very well, but you know, I have to write for them because I love the publication or I love the editor.

Keisha Blair: As you were talking, I was just thinking about one area of freelancing, you know, in terms of pitching. I know that can also take a while when you’re pitching like a new publication. And, you know, I guess in particular, those are most likely the journalistic type of freelancing, but did you have to do a lot of that or is it that you had those relationships that, you could easily let’s say do those projects and get that money coming in.

Javacia Harris Bowser: I’ll be honest. I don’t do pitching, and this is a terrible thing for a freelancer. I don’t do a lot of pitching at all. Yeah. Because I, because I’ve built so many relationships, so honestly, like I don’t have time.

Keisha Blair: Yeah.

Javacia Harris Bowser: And those are always already coming to me with ideas. Now I do, when I say I don’t do a lot of pitching, I mean, I don’t do a lot of cold pitching pitch to the editors that I already have relationships with, but it’s not something that is very time consuming. Since we have a relationship, I don’t really have to go through this really formal, drawn out pitch. I’m just in two sentences that are like, hey, I want to write about blah, blah, blah. And they’re like, yeah. Cool do that. So, yeah, I don’t do a lot of cold pitching. I just don’t have time.

Keisha Blair: And that’s amazing. And so, like, I know you took the quiz. I ask all my guests, you know, this at the end, kind of towards the end of the interview about the personal financial identities quiz that I developed because in my book, Holistic Wealth, I spoke about everyone kind of having a sense of what their personal financial identity is. And so many female entrepreneurs have come on the podcast. They’ve shared their results and insights that they have in terms of how it’s influenced their financial philosophy, whether it’s spending or investing or saving, or, you know, shopping, whatever it is and their lifestyle in general, or even with their spouse. But can you share with us your quiz results and kind of any thoughts you have on that?

Javacia Harris Bowser: It didn’t surprise me at all, that I’m the Anxious Spender. I have all kinds of anxiety about money.

Keisha Blair: My mom’s an Anxious spender. So eager to hear about.

Javacia Harris Bowser: So, yeah, like I spend money, but I’m always nervous about it. I am always like, this is a really do that. And, yeah I’ve had a horrible relationship with money. Most of my life, I didn’t grow up with a lot of money and that lack of money caused a lot of tension in my family. And so I always just associated money with disagreements, or I always had this sort of sense of lack. It’s taken a long time and I say taking, because it’s still in progress to get out of that. Honestly, my husband has helped a lot. He has a much healthier relationship with money, even though he’s very, very frugal. He doesn’t like when I call him stingy or he’s very frugal, but he’s the person who got me comfortable with talking about money. Because I used to not even like to talk about money. Like when we first got married and he wanted to sit down and talk about the budget and all that stuff. I was like, I don’t want to talk about that.

Keisha Blair: Yeah, no, for sure.

Javacia Harris Bowser: So he’s helping me with that a lot. And, yeah, but it’s still a work in progress. I still, I just have a lot of anxiety when it comes to money.

Keisha Blair: Yeah, no for sure. And I completely get that because apart from the other Anxious Spenders that I’ve interviewed on the podcast, as I said before, my mom’s an Anxious Spender. And so I completely understand, because she’s like that too. And, you know, like with her family story, like she had epilepsy at like maybe nine years old to 14 years old, for five years. And her family had to spend all their money on her health. So she grew up feeling guilty and really anxious, you know, seeing her parents basically almost spending everything to have her treated for her epilepsy. I spoke about that a bit in my book, Holistic Wealth, which is kind of what spurred me on to, to try to talk, to try to talk about this more. And to try to open up conversations. After my husband died, I got pretty anxious about my own money because then I was like, oh my gosh, I’m a single mom with two kids now, where do I go from here? So it’s, it’s a topic pretty near and dear to my heart. So, I get the most insights from guests on this podcast on this topic. I think more than any other topic that I have. So Javacia, thank you so much for sharing your story with us. It’s an amazing story. And I’m sure your advocacy work is going to inspire so many people. Can you tell us where to find you like the audience on social media, your website, if they want to do your program?

Javacia Harris Bowser: Yeah. So if you go to see Jane, that is my website. And, as far as social media, I’m always on Instagram. So that a right. And if you are interested in getting connected with the See Jane Write community, we have a Facebook group that’s open to everyone. It’s called a CGM right now. And yeah, the collective, which is our paid membership program, once it reopens, um, you will, if you follow me on social, you’ll know when that reopened so that you can join the collective Islam.

Keisha Blair: Okay, perfect. Thank you. Once again.  for being here, it was amazing hearing your story and I’m inspired by it. So many people will be inspired by your story.

Javacia Harris Bowser: Thank you so much. Thank you again for having me.

Keisha Blair: Thank you for joining us this week on holistic wealth with Kesha Blair, make sure to visit our website,, where you can subscribe to the show on iTunes, Spotify, or via RSS. So you will never miss a show while you’re active. If you found value in this show, we’d appreciate a rating on iTunes. Or simply tell a friend about the show that would help us out too. Are you a member of the Institute on Holistic Wealth? If not watch, are you waiting for go to Institute on holistic wealth/memberships to choose your membership plan and join as a member, you get so many. Free worksheets advice, coaching and a member’s workshop to design and intentionally designed life.

You need to figure out your life purpose. Take the build your life purpose portfolio online self-paced course. If you’re struggling with all your money decisions take the free financial identities quiz, and then take the course. You recently had a breakup job loss are experienced the death of a loved one? Take the Holistic Healing course. Do you need an overall plan to achieve holistic wealth? We will help you figure out your holistic wealth blueprint. And of course, if you can start making money by helping others achieve holistic wealth, become a Certified Holistic WealthTM Consultant, regardless of what career you’ve got, the Institute will show you how to increase your income and walk in your purpose.

The sooner you join, the sooner you start to achieve a more holistically, wealthy lifestyle, and you’re going to want to stay for a very long time. So go to Institute on holistic wealth/memberships. If you haven’t read the book yet, get a copy of the award-winning best-selling Holistic Wealth: 32 life lessons to help you find purpose, prosperity and happiness.