Name: Javacia Harris Bowser
Occupation: freelance writer, blogger, and founder of See Jane Write
Age when diagnosed with breast cancer: 38
Breast cancer type: Invasive lobular and ductal carcinoma
Breast cancer stage: Stage Two
Treatment: lumpectomy, chemotherapy, radiation
Tell us a fun fact about yourself that has nothing to do with cancer.
I am obsessed with Beyoncé. I even used to have a “Beyoncé Fund” – money I would set aside so I could quickly snag concert tickets whenever she announced she was going on tour. I love traveling to see her perform. I’ve seen her perform in Atlanta, Georgia; Nashville, Tennessee; and New Orleans, Louisiana.
I saw her perform for the first time 20 years ago with Destiny’s Child in my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. I was 19 and that same day I’d just bought a car with money I’d saved from working two jobs all summer. When they sang “Independent Women” I could have sworn they were singing it just for me!
What’s your go-to pick-me-up song?
I really don’t have a single song. But, as you might have guessed, most music by Beyoncé can lift my spirits.
I also really love the soundtrack from Sing. Yes, I know that’s a children’s movie. No, I don’t care if you judge me for how much I love it.
How did you discover your breast cancer?
Because I have a family history of breast cancer, my doctor suggested I get an early mammogram to establish a baseline. Honestly, I put it off for a while and when I finally went, I just saw it as something else to check off of my to-do list. But the mammogram found a mass that turned out to be cancerous and here we are.
What went through your head when you received your diagnosis?
Can I still work? And this didn’t just go through my head. I said this out loud to my doctor, too. I am a workaholic. But being in active cancer treatment is forcing me to learn how to rest.
What’s the craziest thing someone said to you after being diagnosed with breast cancer?
Fortunately, no one has said anything crazy to me – yet.
But something interesting that many people have said is that they just couldn’t imagine someone like me getting cancer. One person said, “The news of you having cancer didn’t make sense. You’re a Super Woman.”
I was taken aback by this at first. It felt like people didn’t see me as human. But then I realized that I hadn’t been treating myself like a human.
For nearly 10 years I juggled a full-time job as a high-school English teacher with a freelance writing career and a blog that I turned into a business. And when people would ask me how I do it all I would proudly say, “I’m a machine!”
Cancer has humbled me and taught me that I am NOT a machine and I must stop treating my body like one.
Who has been your biggest source of support throughout your experience with cancer?
My husband Edward has been incredible through all of this. I don’t have the words to adequately show my appreciation for him. Honestly, it brings me to tears when I think about the way he loves me and takes care of me.
My cousin, Tasha, who is more like a sister than a cousin, has also been great. She’s sent me care packages with all the right things – cute head wraps, V-neck tees that are perfect for chemo days, Queasy Drops, and journals. But what I’m most grateful for is the fact that she doesn’t treat me like a sick person. We chat via text every day and it’s hardly ever about cancer. She still treats me like me.
And, of course, there’s the community of women I have cultivated through See Jane Write. See Jane Write is a website and online community for women who write and blog that I started in 2011. They’ve been amazing cheerleaders through this fight. And some of the women have become some of my closest friends and have given me emotional and even financial support when needed.
What is the most difficult part of being a young woman with breast cancer?
Cancer changes everything. Almost all of my goals have been put on hold, my 40 Before 40 list turned to dust. Going through cancer treatments in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic has also meant I can’t go to brunch with my girlfriends or take trips with my husband or really do anything but work from home and go to my cancer treatments.
Cancer changes the way you see your body. You’re angry with your body because you feel it betrayed you. Because of the side effects of treatment, you don’t feel pretty or sexy.
But my writing and my faith are helping me navigate these changes and try to make sense of it all. I begin each day reading the Bible and praying as I work to remind myself that God didn’t do this but will bring me through this.
I also journal every day. I journal about how I feel physically, emotionally, and mentally. But I also journal about the future as if it already is to give myself hope to keep going and to keep fighting.
What’s something unexpected you learned about yourself as a result of having breast cancer?
I am stronger than I thought.
Though some people see me as “Super Woman” and I saw myself as a machine, I always thought cancer was the one thing I could never handle. In fact, throughout my life whenever something bad would happen to me I would always say, “Things could be worse. I could have cancer.” That was always my go-to, my retort and my refrain when I got bad news. When I found out a boyfriend was cheating on me. In my early 20s when I was broke and found out my checking account was overdrawn. Even when I found out I had lupus back in 2008.
Being diagnosed with cancer was the one thing I thought I would never be able to handle. But it turns out I can.
What words of wisdom would you pass on to another young woman who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer?
Breast cancer is now a part of your story, but it’s not your whole story, and it’s not the end.