In 2016, Erica Edwards packed up all her belongings and embarked on the 5-hour drive to Toronto, Canada, with two of her children.
She had lived in Montreal all her life and had a successful career as an emergency room coordinator, but the move was necessary to pursue greater opportunities for herself and her two boys.
“Montreal is a beautiful place. I am grateful I grew up there for many reasons,” Edwards told The Weight She Carries. “However, as a black, anglophone woman, I felt very limited.”
Now, just two years later, her drive and God-given talent combined with the power of networking have catapulted Edwards into a new realm of success. She is an entrepreneur, makeup educator, and the host of her very own talk show, What Matters with Erica Elita, which debuted in June.
“My show is God-given. I know that. I did not seek it, it came to me. This is my calling,” Edwards said. “We ask God for guidance and direction all the time. We ask for signs. Then we often ignore them. When the Universe opens doors, walk through them!”
Edwards is doing just that. However, her journey to those doors has not been easy.
Born into a large, close-knit family, Edwards always had a desire to help people.
“I have been fortunate in so many ways, I feel that is my purpose to help others. It is not completely altruistic. In helping others, I heal myself,” she said.
At the age of 16, she had her first child, but didn’t let that stop her from continuing her education.
“I really thought my mother was going to throw me out and have nothing to do with me,” Edwards said. “But she stunned me by saying, ‘Stay in my house. All I ask is that you finish school.’
Edwards finished high school at a school for pregnant teenagers and graduated when her daughter was 4 days old. Four months later, Edwards started college.
“I don’t want to give the wrong impression and trivialize the hardships of being a young parent, but I had a good run,” she said. “I had plenty of help and my daughter was an easy baby.”
Edwards eventually had two more children. Life was busy, but she was able to juggle multiple responsibilities and pursue her dreams.
Edwards’ toughest battle came seven years ago when she began to experience severe fatigue. She had just separated from her fiancé and thought she was unwell because of her mental state.
One day, she noticed the lymph nodes in her neck were swollen. She mentioned it in passing to one of the doctors where she worked, who told her to seek attention if the swelling didn’t subside in a week.
A week later, nothing had changed.
“Because I worked in the hospital, one of the doctors wrote me an X-ray requisition, and I had an x-ray done close to the end of my shift,” she said.
On her way home from her night shift, Edwards got a call from her co-worker telling her to go back to the hospital for a CT Scan.
“My heart sank because if you have an X-ray and immediately they want you to go for a CT scan, something is very wrong,” she said.
Edwards got home, got her kids ready for school, put them on the bus and returned to the hospital. By that afternoon, she was sitting in a hospital room hearing that she had cancer.
“The doctor said it was everywhere. I looked at my X-ray and my lungs looked like a Christmas tree,” Edwards recalled. “There were little dots in my lungs and my neck, under my armpits and in my lymph nodes.”
Edwards was devastated. Her youngest child was just a year old.
She began to see an oncologist and went through a slew of tests. Just before she was set to begin chemotherapy, the pulmonologist insisted she do more tests because he wasn’t convinced her diagnosis was accurate.
“He said I looked too well for somebody with this stage of cancer,” she said.
After another round of tests, he concluded that Edwards had sarcoidosis.
Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory disease that affects organs in the body, usually the lungs and lymph glands, and causes abnormal masses of inflamed tissues to form called granulomas.
Although it most commonly affects the lungs and lymph glands, sarcoidosis can affect any organ in the body.
The disease mostly affects black women.
Edwards’ first flare up affected her lungs and lymph nodes, but the second spread to her joints, making it difficult to move.
“I could barely get out of bed. Friends and family were coming by to help me take care of my kids. And as a very independent and active woman, this was also devastating mentally,” she said. “When you can’t do your own laundry or bathe your own children, it’s beyond depressing.”
To treat the disease, Edwards was taking strong medications that wreaked havoc on her body. Desperate to find an alternative, she researched more and more about sarcoidosis and discovered that a lot of her symptoms could be regulated by not consuming inflammatory foods.
She found a list of inflammatory foods and a list of anti-inflammatory foods, took it to her doctor and asked why he hadn’t told her about changing her diet. He was surprised and unaware of the link between diet and managing sarcoidosis.
“Because of the nature of medicine in North America, they totally discount diet. I weened myself off the medication and started making green smoothies,” Edwards said. “I tell people all the time that green smoothies literally saved my life.”
Initially, Edwards was reluctant to be vocal about her condition. But over time, she realized that she had an opportunity to be a voice and to raise awareness about sarcoidosis.
“Maybe someone as vocal as I am will call attention to this disease in a way that hasn’t been done before. Maybe there is something I can do for other people,” she said.
[ctt template=”8″ link=”3_db1″ via=”no” ]“You don’t get to pick all your cards, some of them are given to you. And they are given to you for a reason.” – Erica Edwards[/ctt]
Although sarcoidosis has left her lungs functioning at half their capacity, Edwards isn’t letting her condition stop her from enjoying life.
She continues to challenge herself and has mastered the ability to push past adversity to achieve her dreams.
“Earlier in my life I kept going forward without too much reflection. I felt I couldn’t stop and process or I would break. I buried hurt and kept moving. But it builds up and weighs you down. Talking to and with people, with God, reading, learning and finally crying – the release got me through. The mission of self-development took me in directions I never imagined. In looking to help others, I learned to help myself.” – Erica Edwards
Fueled by her desire to help others, Edwards is a firm believer of women supporting one another by sharing experiences. To facilitate this, she organizes workshops geared towards personal development, and also helps women start their own businesses.
Also under the umbrella of her company, Erica Inc., Edwards is impacting her community by connecting with men and woman on issues that matter, which is the premise of her talk show.
Each week, viewers can tune in to TCN Network and Facebook every Tuesday at 6 pm EST to watch Edwards discuss various topics with her guests.
[ctt template=”8″ link=”a4cP4″ via=”no” ]“Push through life, don’t be pulled.” – Erica Edwards[/ctt]
Edwards’ advice to women who are trying to start over in life is to “go where you are celebrated, not tolerated.”
To connect with Erica Edwards, or to watch What Matters, follow her on the following platforms: