In 2008, Linda Hicks suffered a mini stroke, a transient ischemic attack (TIA). She immediately called her doctor – who told her not to even bother coming into the clinic, but to call back if it happened again.
Almost a third of people who experience TIA have a stroke within a year, according to the American Stroke Association. They are the neurological equivalent of a big, flashing neon sign screaming “STROKE WARNING!”
“This was a pivotal moment in my life,” says Hicks. “I knew I had to make some changes and the first one was to find a new doctor.” Her determination led to research, Functional Medicine, better health … and a new career.
Hicks had a whole battery of tests run, but the results revealed little beyond moderately high cholesterol. She knew there was more going on. She dove into internet research and discovered Functional Medicine. She learned from all the webinars and podcasts she could find.
“The door to Functional Medicine opened and it was a life-changer for me,” she says. “I soaked everything up like a sponge.” She found a Functional Medicine doctor and discovered she had a lot of health issues she wasn’t aware of. While she now had the diagnoses, she was on her own to better understand the root causes and what lifestyle changes would mean for her.
“It was painstakingly hard to do,” she says. “I was so weak and ill.” Hicks suffered her TIA after a tumultuous and heartbreaking decade that included literally digging a house out of the muddy wreckage left by the South Texas flood of ’98, two years of rebuilding, caring for, and then losing, both parents and her mother-in-law, and, her seemingly-healthy 57-year-old husband dying in her arms after a massive heart attack.
Hicks dug into her (substantial) inner strength, and her internet research even more deeply and began to take the steps that led to better health. As she did, she realized how passionately she wanted to help empower others to take control of their health.
“It was obvious to me, then, that I lacked a health coach, and that this was a role not being filled by the Functional Medicine healthcare model,” she says. That’s why, when she discovered the Functional Medicine Coaching Academy’s website on New Year’s Day, 2016, she couldn’t believe it.
“Some may talk about a dream come true, but this was more than I could have ever dreamed,” she says. But the course was starting in a few days and she feared she was too late for the semester. Elyse Wagner, FMCA co-founder and director of admissions, responded shortly after Hicks inquired and she applied immediately. “When I was accepted, it was one of the happiest days of my life,” she says.
Hicks graduated in December, 2016.
Though her previous professional life included decades of work in real estate property management, caring for others’ health dominated her personal life. She cared for two ailing parents, who lived with her. Between that and her own health issues, she says healthcare was constantly in the forefront of her life.
“It’s been quite a healing journey, requiring every ounce of patience and self-regulation I can muster, and I’m still on the road to optimal health,” she says. “But being a patient with so many problems that have been reversed through lifestyle and diet gives me compassion for clients going through similar struggles and I can encourage them in ways I never could have if I’d not gone through it myself.”
When Hicks was researching her conditions, she felt completely alone.
“I really, really struggled,” she said. That’s why she particularly appreciated the sense of community that grew as she went through FMCA. “Being around a group of like-minded people was really invaluable,” she said. Although the program is online, she connected with other people while working on group projects and during coach partnering sessions.
Another aspect of FMCA that she found especially helpful was the Coaching In Action videos that showed expert faculty members working with clients over many sessions. She found the variety of personality types among the coaches, and how each used them in their work, inspiring.
“We all have different personalities and at first, you might see one example where the coach is very different from you, and say, ‘no way, I could never do that,’” she says. “But then, you’ll see another coach with a completely different personality that might be more similar to yours and it all starts to make sense that you just be you, let your own unique personality and character strengths guide you.”
Hicks is running her own health coaching practice for local clients in San Antonio, Texas, and clients across the country using online conferencing. She’s currently putting the last touches her business website. She urges potential students to enroll in The Functional Medicine Coaching Academy Health Coach Certification Program even if they don’t plan to coach professionally.
“It’s such a great investment for managing the health of your family,” she says, noting how much money can be saved with better health decisions, and of course, the priceless benefit of better health. “I certainly could have avoided several unnecessary surgeries if I’d gone through the program earlier. I’m missing some organs I can’t get back,” she says with a laugh.
Before FMCA, Hicks was literally counting the days and minutes until she could retire from working. Now, with the skills to work helping others as a Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach and certified gluten practitioner, she can’t wait to share her passion and knowledge with more clients. She feels she is truly called to health coaching.
“It’s like I can’t not do it,” she says.