Foster learned she had retinitis pigmentosa, a rare and genetic disorder that breaks down the cells in the retina, leading to blindness, according to the National Eye Institute.
Of her nine siblings, Foster is the only one with the disorder, she said. She recalled not taking the diagnosis seriously.
"I was young and kind of carefree and silly," Foster said. "I said, 'Well, can't I smoke marijuana?' I had heard it helped people with visual impairment."
Foster, at 16, still saw well enough to obtain her driver's license. After high school, she took classes at Joliet Junior College and worked midnights in a factory inspecting bottle caps for defects. By then, Foster was in her 20s and her vision was declining.
"My dad was worried about me getting to work, but I'd say, 'Don't worry. I'll make it. I'm going to get there. God has me," Foster said. "I had these landmarks because I could not really see. But it wasn't gong to stop me. I was persevering. I was going to keep moving."
Until the night Foster, at age 23, had a minor accident while driving in the fog.
"I was a nervous wreck once I got to work," Foster said. "Of course I had to call my parents and let them know. My dad worried the rest of the night and didn't sleep at all. I thought,
'Maybe I need to take a step back and not drive before I kill myself or somebody else."
It was a depressing decision.
"I contemplated suicide plenty of times," Foster said. "I just didn't think I had a reason to live. What could I do as a blind person? What career could i do? I was into horticulture. I was into culinary arts. I wanted to do cake decorating. I wanted to go to beauty school and do hair. I was into interior decorating."
In the fall of 1996, Foster, 25, spent 90 days at the Illinois Center for Education and Rehabilitation.
Two years later, and back at JJC, Foster met her husband-to-be in a class. She didn't know at the time, but he also was blind; she did not know he, too, had attended Illinois Center for Education and Rehabilitation.
"He was smart and he helped me with my homework and he smelled good," Foster said.
She recalled how they ended up at the same party over Christmas break. Because they liked each other, neither one wanted to admit they couldn't see."
"I kept asking for an ashtray but he couldn't see it either and was too embarrassed to admit it," Foster said. "We both sat there in agony acting like we could see."