Editorial Note: Tandi passed away a few months after this interview on November 28, 2020. We are honored that she entrusted us with part of her story. Our deepest sympathies go out to her family and friends.
Tandi Bronston was diagnosed with a glioblastoma brain tumor at the end of 2013, with only a 50% survival rate past the first 18 months. Seven years later, after multiple surgeries, she maintains a positive attitude despite her continuing battle with brain cancer.
Tell me about your background in the Church.
I grew up with the Church and the gospel in my life. I was inactive from 2005 until 2012 when we moved to Maryland. After three or four months of being there, I started feeling like I was missing something. I had a prompting that I needed to go back to church one Sunday morning. It’s crazy to think about, incredible. I had this prompting so I went to church that day. When the sacrament came, I didn’t partake because I wasn’t active, but I felt another prompting to meet the bishop. Usually, bishops are busy after meetings, but particularly that day, he was greeting people after sacrament meeting and he noticed me. I asked if he had a moment because I had an overwhelming feeling of being home. I needed to repent and I needed to recommit. Over about the next six months, I was able to come back through the repentance process and get a calling, and to take the sacrament. All those things. Within the year, I was able to get my temple recommend. It was an incredible experience. I have to say that my faith was super strong and intense during those times because I just felt promptings.
When did the cancer diagnosis happen?
I was experiencing seizures and a decline. I was diagnosed in 2013, and I’ve been having to deal with that since then. I have issues speaking since my last surgery at the end of 2019. It’s been quite a challenge, a trial. I still go through these things, even though it’s been difficult. I’ve always had to continue to be strong with my faith. It’s really inspired me to just be happy all the time.
That’s what makes me happy – when I think of my Heavenly Father. If anything were to happen, I know that I’m taken care of. I know that He is watching over me and I’m not scared of anything, especially since I’ve been active in the Church. One thing after another happens, but there’s always something positive about it. That’s made a difference in my outlook. It’s strengthened my faith.
The day before her first surgery in February 2014, Tandi posted on her blog:
I am so blessed to know the Gospel and the importance of renewing our covenants with him. Our Savior died for us so we could repent and return to our Heavenly Father. It is so amazing to me. I feel his love, comfort and protection now. I am not scared. I am at peace and I know through the power of trust and faith in the Lord I will be healed. It won’t be an easy road, but the Lord knows what I can endure and I feel like I can endure this challenge in my life. I am a witness now to his power because I feel so strong and blessed to him in my life. I never felt the Spirit so strong. I have the Lord on my side and I can feel it!
This has been an amazing experience for me. My eyes are open and I continue to see so many blessings in my life. The Lord has truly blessed [my family and me]. Especially coming to this point. Satan desires me to be unhappy, but too bad. He failed. I am so happy even at this very moment. I am blessed with a wonderful and loving family. I have unshakable faith and the Lord is in my life. I know when I wake up from the surgery I will work hard and heal fast! Every day I have searched, pondered, and prayed for comfort and strength. I testify that it has worked! I am tremendously comforted that everything will be okay. Even when I spoke with the Doctor about the possible risk of not walking again I didn’t feel scared. I have my trust in the Lord to heal me completely. Of course…It is the will of the Lord. He knows my desires of my heart and I trust him completely. He knows me more than I know myself and I know I am his instrument.
Before I go into surgery tomorrow. I wanted to post my testimony. I have a testimony of the Gospel. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and I reaffirm that we have a prophet here on this Earth with Apostles. I know that the prophet Joseph Smith restored the gospel for this dispensation. I have pondered and read the Book of Mormon and know of its truth. It is another testament of Jesus Christ. It does not replace the Bible because it is another witness to the Bible. Through this knowledge I trust and love the Lord with all my heart. I don’t know how to describe the feeling I feel right now. I feel so happy and blessed. I feel like I am bursting at the seams. I want to spread my love of the Lord to everyone. He loves us so much and wants us to continue to have him in our lives every day. Sometimes we forget, but he is in our lives all the time! Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ we are saved. I love the Lord so much. I am sure I decided to come down this Earth to go through these challenges. I know my Redeemer lives. I humbly say these things and testify as a witness of his love for his children. I say this in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ. AMEN.
I love you all and hope you know that I am not scared. I know I will be healed and I know that this challenge has made me spiritually stronger. If Christ endured pain and suffering far greater than anyone, I know I will get through this. I continue to pray for everyone in my life and through my experiences hope that this will keep the Lord in your lives.
What was the result of that surgery?
The tumor is glioblastoma stage four tumor – this one was diagnosed in 2013. The survival rate is actually 18 months. After that surgery, I had to go to chemotherapy at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland.
Blog posts, post surgery, February 2014:
I know this is a miracle. I know that this has made my faith and believe in God so much stronger. I feel like He led [my family] to Maryland. Who would have thought? I mean, if this happened in Farmington, New Mexico, what would we be doing? I really don’t know, but here everything has fallen into place.
I received a surprise at the door today. … I got some awesome flowers and they are so gorgeous. It is so colorful and beautiful. I really am blessed with wonderful people who work with me. I am tremendously blessed with the support I get from people everywhere. I know that when you live every day smiling and being positive it will make other people feel the same way. I want my friends and family to know that even when you are going through the worst day, you have the power to change it around. A simple thought of thinking of others will make you happy. Instead of thinking, “Why me?” think,” How can I make this situation better?”
People ask me why I am so positive and happy all the time. Well…the secret is I don’t look at the negative. I look at the positive and the “real secret” is I put the Lord first. I put my trust in him because he knows me more than I know myself. I always get someone asking me if I ever get mad or angry. I sure do because I am not perfect. But I don’t allow myself to bring someone down because of my imperfections. I always love to see and make someone smile. It definitely makes my day. I think some people may get annoyed with it, but oh well…can you blame me…If you don’t want to be around anyone positive you probably be best to stay away from me.
And now, in 2020:
Even though I’m still going through these difficult times physically, I’m just able to continue to be positive, especially to my family. I just think about Heavenly Father and how He has blessed me with such a beautiful family who continues to be an example and a strength to me. I think that’s what helps me keep positive.
What is your family like?
I have four siblings. I’m the oldest, so five altogether. I am married. My husband is not a member of the Church. His father was a pastor for another church. What really connected me to my husband was the faith that he has as well, just with what we go through, like when I went through chemo. He comes to church with me and even though he’s not baptized, he still is a strength to me. He is an example to me and I am an example to him.
When we were married, and even before we were dating, he understood and I understood that we both were children of God and that we had that bond with the Savior as well as with each other. That was one thing that really attracted me to him during that time. He’s still an example to me.
How long have you been married?
13 years and 2 days. We’ve known each other since high school, for a long time. No children. I went through endometrial cancer in my mid-20s. Going to the temple helped me know that there’s a plan for me, even though I can’t physically in this time have kids. I’ve gone through so much but I have my Heavenly Father in my life. I don’t know what I would be without Him.
How has Heavenly Father helped you through this challenge?
All the things that I wrote in my blog … I did try to write this year but it’s been difficult for me because I lost the function of my right side.
I just feel blessed considering how much time I’ve had already. It’s a miracle that I’m still doing what I’m doing. Right now, I’m doing chemotherapy again – this is my third or fourth time going through chemotherapy, but it’s been in stages throughout my six years. My tumor was stable until it returned last year in December. This time, it actually affected my speech. That’s why it’s hard for me to speak right now but it’s a good exercise to talk to people.
It’s difficult but I still continue to strive to be faithful. I keep relying on my faith to move forward because I just know that I will be blessed. I just think of Job and his trials and Joseph Smith. All of our prophets have gone through these trials. They endured pain, so when I think about it, I feel like this is something I can handle. It’s just really helped me and my family – they help me so much. I feel like I’ve always been the strong one – they always said that I really didn’t need a lot of help. So I feel like maybe I need to go through this so that my family learn to help me. I feel like I’m an instrument. I have two siblings, when we talk, it’s like they just love the positivity that I give them at this time. They think, “If she can do it, so can I,” in my circumstances. That’s what I always think about – what Heavenly Father is using me for at this time.
I love my ward that helps me during this time. Since we haven’t physically been able to go to church, it’s helped me be even more mindful of trying to be spiritually involved in the home. I have my husband. We actually live with my sister-in-law and my little brother is here with us. Before the pandemic, he was in spring break of his senior year of high school. He’s been able to do the sacrament for us because he has the priesthood. Just continually being able to have that Spirit here has been helpful. I feel like I’ve helped my family in being spiritually blessed.
My family is so strong. My father instilled in our growing up that families are forever, and families need to be together, and I really believe that’s so important. Just being a family. Having that foundation, even though we have our ups and downs … everyone goes through their trials and tribulations. Each person has different trials. Family is so important and regardless of what we go through, we continue to carry each other’s burdens.
You’ve talked about being happy despite your challenges. What do you do to be happy?
What helps me to be happy is just living life, being with my family and my husband. We see each other every day. They make me happy. Growing up, I was always a generally happy person. We moved back near family in Arizona in 2017, and then to Albuquerque the next year. That’s where we are now.
I honestly don’t know. I’ve always been a happy person. My husband told me that’s what attracted me to him – my bubbliness. Even people I grew up with – they’ve always told me I was happy through thick and thin. It’s difficult but I’ve tried to find happiness in my circumstances, or at least try to find the blessings. I’m happy I’m still alive and able to work with my left hand and I’m able to walk. I’m happy to be able to just walk around. I just live life daily. I have bad days. I’m not perfect, and when days like that happen, I cry and I simply talk to my Heavenly Father for comfort to get through my difficulties. I feel like everything all works out, especially with my doctors.
How is your cancer being managed now?
I’m doing chemo. I do it orally so I don’t have to go in. I was supposed to do my fifth cycle and it’s usually five days consecutively, once a month but my platelets are really low. They had to push the date a week or two. I have to be really careful because I’m really bruising right now.
I’m not going out, only to the doctor. The pandemic is pretty crazy but I know that the Church was already prepared for this. They probably didn’t know but they had all the materials ready a year prior, like start studying with families. That in itself is amazing to my family.
What are your general thoughts to share?
All I know is I have a very strong testimony. I know Heavenly Father loves me. I know that I’m a child of God. I have people in my life who have always been an example to me, throughout my life, at church, or in just daily interactions. I didn’t realize how big a support I have. I still speak to my old bosses from years and years back at different jobs. Just to be able to have these experiences and have people say they see a very special spirit in me. It’s because of my faith in Heavenly Father. What people see of me is what I represent of Heavenly Father. I try my best to represent the goodness that He is through me.
That’s what I want people to know – that Heavenly Father has blessed me with who I am. With Him, I can get through anything. All these experiences that I have is the strength that represents Him. I have to remember myself as well. Heavenly Father is my one strength that helps me get through this because I represent Him.
I wish I could say a lot of things. I have written them before I stopped being able to speak as well. I’m so glad I wrote them down. I still continue to believe with my faith.
At A Glance
Name: Tanderra Bronston
Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico
Marital History: Married
Convert to the Church: Raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
Schools Attended: Monument Valley High School, Snow College, San Juan College
Languages Spoken At Home: English
Favorite Hymn: Master, The Tempest is Raging
Interview Produced By: Trina Caudle