It was a casual conversation at the doctor’s office where she worked that changed Diane Sheridan’s life.
One day a colleague’s sister dropped by for a visit and mentioned that she had just finished school. Diane asked her what she had studied. When the woman said massage therapy, Diane says it was like something went “bing” in her head.
The woman was a Vicars School of Massage Therapy graduate.
“By the end of the week, I was pretty much signed up to start,” says Diane. “I really didn’t have time to think about whether that was a good idea or not.” (Spoiler alert: it was!)
It wasn’t a completely impulsive choice, though. Diane did some research on various massage schools in Alberta before applying.
“I chose Vicars because no one else was offering the four-days-a-month program,” she says. “Really my whole reason for applying to Vicars was based on that.”
Diane applied in November hoping to be admitted at Vicars Calgary campus in January of 2019. But the schedule option she wanted to take didn’t start until the following September. Fortunately, she didn’t have to wait that long to get started with her training: she was able to begin Vicars online courses in anatomy & physiology and pathology right away. As a result, by the time she started school she had a head start on the curriculum.
It was only once she was in the program did Diane realize what a great choice she had made.
“I thought that because I had a nursing degree already it would be really easy,” Diane says. “The fact that the program was challenging, and it really did exercise my brain, made me aware that Vicars took this very seriously and that it was it was a really good education.”
The four days a month at Vicars also gave her back her sense of self. Diane had moved to Sundre from England with her husband and four children nearly two decades ago and had put her nursing career on hold to raise her kids.
“When you go through life as a mum, you lose your identity a bit,” she says. “People in Sundre know me as the English gal or the twins’ mum, but for those four days a month when I attended class at Vicars, I was just Diane.”
Any qualms Diane had about her age were quickly dispelled. “We had [students] in our class ranging from 21 years old to me at 53,” she says. “On the first day I sat down next to one young woman, and we became fast friends straight away and have been super good friends ever since.”
Diane’s time at Vicars wasn’t entirely smooth sailing, though. Her first year of blended on-campus and online classes began in September 2019, and was supposed to continue with the same schedule until June 2020. The pandemic changed that—like everywhere else, Vicars had to temporarily shut down on-site instruction. Having a blended curriculum gave the school a leg up in adapting to the new circumstances, however, and zoom lectures started immediately.
“Vicars was right on top of the situation right away,” she says. “There wasn’t any worry that we were missing out on curriculum because we weren’t physically in class.”
The full realization of the quality of Vicars’ education for Diane happened after graduation in June 2021 when she was working in the field.
“Clients would say ‘I’ve never had this done before’ and I was thinking ‘Hang on. What are other schools teaching?’ because the particular therapy was a huge part of the Vicars approach to treatment.”
Diane had gone into massage therapy thinking that she wasn’t seeking a new career, but rather something extra she could do after her workday—massages for family and friends—given that her kids were soon graduating. “The whole premise of taking massage therapy was to exercise my brain,” says Diane. “But as I was going through school, it became very apparent that I was doing a lot of work and making a lot of sacrifices. I realized it would be stupid not to actually see this as a proper business opportunity.”
While Diane changed her mind about her approach to massage as a profession, her vision was always to work from home.
“I had always worked for someone else, and I just didn’t want to do that anymore,” she says. “I had my massage therapy room set up even before I started school!”
Diane soft-launched her business, Beckett Park Therapeutic Massage, in August of 2021. In her planning she assumed that the business would take a while to build up allowing her to keep her job at the doctor’s office. But once her doors opened, she was immediately busy.
“I had put a couple of ads in the community pages of the paper and had people calling at 11 at night and six in the morning,” says Diane. “Between my office job and my business, I was working 70 hours a week.”
It took Diane three months to hand in her notice at the doctor’s office. “It was really difficult because it was my financial safety net and I had to believe that my business would carry on and pay the bills,” she says, but: “It was the best thing I ever did.”
Two years later, Diane is earning twice what she earned in the doctor’s office, and she works half the hours.
“The whole vibe of my working life has changed and it’s amazing,” she says. “If I want to (book a) morning off to play pickleball or get a pedicure, I just do it.”
But it’s not just about the financial security.
“I have just the most amazing clients who say the most wonderful things,” says Diane. “It’s such a lift when somebody comes and says this is the best hour of their day or the best hour of their month. I just think how lucky I am that I get to do this every day.”
Diane’s clients aren’t keeping it a secret. Her business was voted number one in Sundre in The Albertan newspaper’s Peoples’ Choice Awards for massage therapy this year.
“I just couldn’t believe it,” says Diane. “I’ve only been in business for two years and I’m just so grateful to be recognized like this.”
That recognition is the icing on the cake for Diane, given how much she loves her profession. “It’s not that you’re helping people and taking away from yourself,” she says. “You’re helping people and it’s filling your cup as well.”