Bobby Foster sought a life coach and became one himself to control his cystic fibrosis instead of letting it control him.
When Bobby Foster was born 24 years ago, he was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis and given a 10-year life expectancy. He has doubled that, and then some.
Foster said he had a mild case of it — he was always in the 90th to 100th percentile for lung function — and he was fairly healthy growing up.
Until he reached high school.
“In high school, I got mono, and that mixed with everything with CF … after that happened I was in the 20th percentile,” said Foster, a 2011 graduate of Olympia High School.
Visits to doctors’ offices and to the hospitals were routine for Foster, and regular school attendance was difficult. He estimates he probably missed half the school year during his sophomore through senior years.
Still, he was voted class president three years in a row, chosen Mr. Olympia and named to the prom and homecoming courts.
“Usually that would make it easier on the bullying side, but my illness is invisible,” Foster said. “Especially because I grew up healthy, people had expectations of me because they didn’t see my illness. So when it showed up, it led to a lot of bullying — not from the students, from the adults.
“They would say, ‘Bobby’s not that sick,’” he said. “That’s the bad part of it being invisible.”
His mother had to fight for his disability rights in school, he said.
After obtaining a creative writing degree at the University of Central Florida, Foster was running a social media marketing company when he was introduced to someone who would completely change his life.
Life coach Christina Cooper Foster came up with a coaching plan for Foster after he shared his life with her, and their professional relationship would continue for more than two years.
“She asked me a question that was so life-changing,” he said. “She asked me why I needed my CF, and I was so offended by that question. … And then it dawned on me two weeks after I talked to her.
“CF gives me this experience of unconditional love, to be empathetic, to understand what pain and suffering for others is,” Bobby Foster said.
“Being able to heal that suffering, being able to understand that everyone is suffering from something and understanding people’s pain, there’s a gateway for transformation, but you have to have that awareness,” Foster said. “A lot of people don’t even know that they’re hurting or what they’re hurting from.”
After working with his life coach, Foster was inspired to start his own practice, what he calls Alchemy of Life: Transformational Life Coaching, to help others living with cystic fibrosis to take their suffering and turn it into joy.
He establishes goals for growth and wellness in CF patients, guided by the belief that emotional and spiritual wellness is as important as physical wellness.
Foster said he has two choices each day: “I can see it as, ‘Ah, this sucks. I want my life back.’ Or I can go the other way, (and) I can show myself compassion and love.”
After a lifetime of witnessing suffering, he said, he was ready to accept the lessons of unconditional love.
“We can just make our lives that much more enjoyable,” Foster said. “Make other people’s lives much more enjoyable by being the example.”
Recently, Foster received word that he has been awarded a $10,000 Impact Grant from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation for his work with the CF community. He said he will use the money to improve Alchemy of Life. He wants to set up an ideal office space for his conference calls —clients with CF cannot be within six feet of each other because of bacteria and infections. He hopes to purchase office equipment and to provide himself a small salary, as well.
Foster’s life-coaching practice accepts all clients, not just those with cystic fibrosis, but clients with the illness pay no fees.
“It’s me giving the client their power back,” he said. “It’s really just a rediscovery of your power.”
Foster still fights CF daily, mostly coughing and sinus headaches, but changing his diet and scheduling regular cardio workouts has had a tremendous effect on the disease’s severity.
Life is good for Foster, who recently got engaged and moved from Winter Garden to Apopka. He still fights the guilt and shame of having a chronic illness that might allow him to walk a mile one day and keep him in bed the next — so his mental health is a top priority.
“One of the things I try to preach is that even though I have this disease, everything in my life could also affect my health,” Foster said. “My mental health could affect how I’m feeling. My diet could affect how I’m feeling.
“For a while I was blaming CF for everything I was feeling,” he said. “But it made me not be able to see that it was my mental health or my diet. That was a big breakthrough for me. I stopped blaming my CF for everything. I feel like that allowed me to get it under control.”
For information, visit his website, Bobbyfosterspeaks.com.