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Airman Lives Dream One Note at a Time

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Staff Sgt. Abigail Foster sings in her car. She also used to live in it.

The NCO assigned to the 92nd Maintenance Squadron, began her music career performing at church, but never imagined the hardship she would have to overcome to perform and bring smiles to people's faces.

Prior to joining the Air Force, Foster, found herself in an awful situation. A bad marriage resulted in her living out of her car.

"Music is what I used to help me get through difficult times such as my previous marriage," she said. "I would sing and pray in hopes of getting out of my car."

Foster used the Air Force as a step into her future.

"I said to myself, 'this is something I will try and see what happens,' and here I am almost 12 years later," Foster said.

In June 2000, her wing commander at Misawa Air Base, Japan, heard her sing and encouraged her to try out for Tops in Blue.

Tops in Blue is an all active-duty Air Force entertainment group that travels the world performing for service members and their families.

"Somebody actually saw potential in me -- a potential that I did not see myself," she said. "From that point, Tops in Blue became my goal."

Yet, before she could get into Tops in Blue she found out that she had a brain tumor.

"My first brain surgery was April 14, 2004, and I had a tumor the size of a golf ball," she said.

Brett, Foster's then-boyfriend and now husband, helped her through her recovery, but a long road laid ahead of her.

"It's really tough to recover from something so traumatic such as brain surgery. I was never the same after that and the confidence I had within myself was shot to the ground," she said.

Foster was medically retired from the Air Force in 2006 to further recover from post-surgery issues such as migraines and excessive spinal fluid in the brain. But that didn't stop her determination to be an Airman again, or from chasing her dream.

"The process to re-enter the Air Force was not an easy one," she said. "I was constantly in and out of doctors offices after my recovery."

Foster actually flew to San Antonio, Texas, to meet with the medical evaluation board and pled to be allowed back into the Air Force.

"I had proven that I was stable and no longer in need of extreme care," Foster said. "With the information I was able to provide, the MEB decided to allow me to re-enter active duty and continue my military career."

The total recovery time for Foster's first surgery was five years. After fighting her way back into the Air Force in 2010, she immediately decided to audition for Tops in Blue.

"I was extremely dedicated to making an impression and making the 2011 Tops in Blue team," she said.

Despite all of her medical history, Foster was accepted for her talent and eagerness to share her skills.

"My dreams became reality on Jan. 23, 2011," Foster said. "Tops in Blue helped me regain my confidence and overcome any barriers caused by my brain surgery. I am a better person and a better Airman because of Tops in Blue."

She said her experiences in Tops in Blue have given her the tools and knowledge to be a good ambassador for the Air Force. They also taught her to utilize all her resources and work to be part of a team.

The tour however was no easy feat for Foster.

"Tops in Blue was the best and worst year of my life," she said. "It was really hard work. We not only performed but were in charge of stage setup and tear down."

Members of Tops in Blue are in essence their own road crew. Under the guidance of five technicians, the team is responsible for setting up the more than 60,000 pounds of staging, lighting, audio, video and special effects equipment required for each performance.

"It was long, hard days, but it was absolutely worth it," she said. "Every single day I had the chance to make a difference in someone, whether it was making them smile or reminding our deployed members of home."

When the tour was over in February 2012, Foster returned home and received bad news shortly after.

Less than six weeks from returning home, Foster found herself back in the emergency room. The words "brain surgery" emerged again.

"I was taken back to the days of my first surgery and was completely distraught at the news I had just heard," she said. "My brain became unstable after suddenly stopping the intense exercise regimen I had with Tops in Blue."

Foster had too much spinal fluid in the brain and within six days of entering the hospital, she had brain surgery again.

"I can honestly say that the exercise program I had with Tops in Blue saved my life on the road," said Foster.

This time, the pain and recovery process was a little easier.

"I had the support of my friends, family and my commander at the time," she said. "They assisted in any and all needs I had encountered. Less than 30 days from the surgery, I returned to work."

Five months later Foster is still recovering from her second surgery.

"I am slowly regaining my once-active life," Foster said. "It's not easy going through all of this, but it's very humbling. I do not take life for granted and every moment I have alive is a gift from God."

Foster is still singing and performs locally. She sings at base events and has performed at the Spokane County Interstate Fair, Jack Owen concert, Idaho State Fair, Spokane Chiefs and Indians hockey and baseball games.

"I am living proof that anything is possible," she said. "After two brain surgeries, no matter what you go through, anything you put your mind to is possible."

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