As a part of our “Unstoppable” series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tisha Foster.
Tisha Foster suddenly lost control of her body in 2009 after two years of what she thought to be typical back pain, she began experiencing muscle contractions and distortions to the point where she was unable to walk from point A to B without collapsing. After multiple trips to the doctor’s office where she was thought to be in the early stages of MS or Parkinsons, after two years they finally found the true cause of her suffering: Tisha has a rare disease called Stiff Person Syndrome, a disease that affects 1 in 1 million people. After 9 years of struggle, in 2016 Tisha’s symptoms were finally under control allowing her to return to some sense of normalcy. By that point she had been through dark spouts of depression and suicidal thoughts, but through the pain she was able to find a deeper connection to God. After everything she went through, Tisha realized that she could be a source of light for others struggling with the same trauma, whether that be people with the condition or those indirectly affected by it. Tisha’s hope is to inspire others through her journey and essentially become the face of Stiff Person Syndrome, creating more general awareness around it. Her first step in this process was releasing her book titled, “My Journey with God through Stiff Person Syndrome” in 2018.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! It is really an honor. Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
My name is Tisha Foster and I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. As a young lady, I was pursuing a modeling career and had the opportunity to travel around the world. Although I got to meet some very interesting entertainers, basketball players, and fashion designers I was kind of popular among the gritty street folks. Always keeping my distance but learned how to survive by any means necessary. But shortly after having my second son, my modeling career slowed down a little and I eventually was diagnosed with a rare condition called Stiff Person Syndrome.
SPS is a debilitating illness that tossed me to the ground without warning and sent my body into a completely straight and stiff position. Sometimes it would be accompanied by uncontrollable spasms. After being deeply depressed my youngest son, a true angel, helped to guide me back to a church where I began to trust in my faith once again.
After several operations and learning how to continue living with such a condition, I found the strength to write and publish “My Journey with God Through Stiff Person Syndrome” a book on my experiences. Things are difficult at times, but I think God for life and continue to count my blessings despite the minor side effects I continue to experience.
Do you feel comfortable sharing with us the story surrounding how you became disabled or became ill? What mental shift did you make to not let that “stop you”?
Yes, I absolutely feel comfortable sharing my story. It’s the purpose of my first book. I made a promise to God to bring awareness and do my best to inspire those with this rare illness or any hidden disability to continue living life. The doctors still don’t know how a person contracts the illness and for me, it just hit me one day and continued to progress.
Can you tell our readers about the accomplishments you have been able to make despite your disability or illness ?
One of my greatest accomplishments is that I am able to be a mother to my youngest son. Our relationship has grown stronger and he is the rock that keeps me strong. The second accomplishment that falls underneath the first is writing and publishing a memoir about my condition. It was difficult to relive some of the most embarrassing and painful moments in my life.
What advice would you give to other people who have disabilities or limitations?
My advice would be to believe in a higher power and that life can still be enjoyed even if it is not the way you were accustomed to.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
Yes, my brother, author Kawand Crawford. He has been paralyzed for over 30 years, written several novels since his paralysis, and currently is a ghostwriter for inspiring writers. He’s been a true inspiration and someone I can count on for positive and inspirational support.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I’ve used my success to not only bring goodness to the world but hope to the hopeless. I met several individuals in similar situations that read my book, and have expressed a great deal of gratitude for the information provided in “My Journey with God Through Stiff Person Syndrome!”
Can you share “5 things I wish people understood or knew about people with physical limitations” and why.
1- A person with physical limitations can still be a productive citizen.
2- A person with physical limitations can still enjoy life.
3- A person with physical limitations can still raise a child.
4- A person with physical limitations can inspire others.
5- A person with physical limitations can still travel with some special accommodations.
I believe it is important for people to not think that a person with a disability no longer has a life. I’ve learned that not only can a person with a physical disability have a life but be a positive force for others. Having physical limitations just means doing things a little different and sometimes with some minor accommodations.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
Don’t stop when you get Tired stop when you are done.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this :-)
I would love to have breakfast with Iyanla Vanzant. Her books of inspiration got me through some tough times in life and we both attended Medgar Evers College, at different times.