Overcoming Defeat: The Hickson Family Story
Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine (LUCOM) hosted coach Frank Hickson, Sr., and his wife, LUCOM Senior Executive Director of Administration and Finance, Meesha Hickson, in a special convocation last month. The two shared their testimony with LUCOM faculty, administrative staff, and student-doctors on how their lives changed when Coach Hickson was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. It was a time in their lives when their faith was truly tested.
For the Hickson family, their priorities are faith, family, football and are listed in that order. On the surface, they seemed like a typical, football-loving family when they received the news, but underneath they were quietly facing challenges that they would eventually overcome.
It was 1990 and Coach Hickson was in Philadelphia. He had just finished running the stairs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art to the Rocky statue and had started to make his way back when he couldn’t keep his balance and his eye sight became blurry. “Walking back to the hotel, that was the real deal,” said Frank. “We got back and the doctors knew that something was going on and that they needed to figure it out.” The results eventually came back as an unspecified neurological dysfunction, but it wasn’t until 2001 when they got the official diagnosis. It was Multiple Sclerosis (MS). MS is an autoimmune disorder with no cure that attacks various parts of the human body.
For Coach Hickson, it attacked his legs. The Hickson family was hesitant to disclose Frank’s diagnosis because it could jeopardize his career as a football coach. Eventually, it became dangerous for him to perform his job on the field because of his inability to get out of the way and avoid injury.
The family moved back to Maryland to be closer to Frank’s mother who was also undergoing health issues. It was during that time when their daughter’s eighth-grade math teacher asked Frank a personal question. “The teacher asked him if he had MS,” said Meesha. “We said that he did and it turned out to be a wonderful blessing.” The teacher wanted to introduce Frank to his neurologist. This moment was life changing.
Within several months, he was jogging again. He then received the opportunity to be the running backs coach at Liberty University. Coach Hickson, with 23 years of collegiate football coaching experience, brought his family to Lynchburg later that same year and became a running back coach for the Liberty Flames. While at Liberty, Frank coached Rashad Jennings, who now competes as a contestant on the hit ABC show, Dancing with the Stars.
In February of 2008, Frank had a devastating relapse, one with too much damage for him to overcome. The relapse effected his ability to walk unassisted and began to end his coaching career. His family fought through everything with their focus on God. “He has truly ordered our steps in everything we’ve done,” said Meesha. “Team Hickson trusts in God first.”
Frank was a fighter and he didn’t back down when the next challenge came into his life. His daughter, Leidra, got engaged and Frank was determined to walk his daughter down the aisle on her wedding day. Frank labored, sweat, and cried as he worked with personal trainers at Pellegrino Ringi Fitness to help strengthen the muscles in his legs. “‘I know we have God in our life and that he wants us to be positive,” said Frank. “I tell Satan to bring it on because I choose to be positive in everything.” Frank excelled in his training and achieved his goal when on his daughter’s wedding day, he walked her down the aisle, by himself, unassisted.
“God uses different people in different places for different reasons,” added Frank. “Regardless of what happens, we choose to fight and that’s what gets us through.”