Te’Andra Tough Foundation: How One Woman Took Pain and Turned It Into Purpose

After the tragic passing of her daughter Te’Andra LaShae in 2019, Tonya Adams founded the Te’Andra Tough Foundation to raise awareness of appendix cancer and honor Te’Andra’s memory.
Featured Image Te'Andra Tough Foundation

Tonya Adams is no stranger to giving back and supporting leaders of the community. She raised her children to believe in being a blessing to others, and she gave them a sense of family, love, and togetherness. Because of her strong ties to her church and community, Tonya spent hours giving her time to organizations that meant a great deal to her, and she always supported fundraising events for her alma mater, George Washington High School.  

Tonya has also been a big supporter of her childhood friends, acting as a cheerleader for her friend’s endeavors and helping out financially when needed. Tonya never knew that she would be the one needing the support she had once given to so many others.  

Te'Andra LaShae sitting in a car and smiling at the camera
Te’Andra LaShae

In a shocking blow to Tonya and her family, Tonya’s daughter, Te’Andra Shae, was diagnosed with Stage IV appendix cancer in April 2019. Te’Andra was told that her form of cancer was very rare, and it is mostly diagnosed by happenstance because the symptoms mimic common abdominal pains. After hearing the devastating diagnosis, Te’Andra was hopeful that the disease would not be the end of her journey on Earth — she thought she would live to be a testimony for many others.  

Tonya’s mother Annie Adams also grew sick during this time, and she passed away in May 2019 of natural causes, the day after Mother’s Day. As Tonya was preparing a memorial service for her mother, she was still sleeping at the hospital with Te’Andra and tending to her needs. Tonya buried her mom and supported her daughter in the ICU, and she still tried to keep her routine of checking in on friends, family members, and organizations that needed her support. Tonya was hopeful for her daughter and couldn’t wait to share the story of how God brought Te’Andra through a terribly rare cancer through prayer and faith.  

Te'Andra Tough Foundation LogoWhat Tonya didn’t know was that six weeks later, on June 30, 2019, she would lose 27-year-old Te’Andra to appendix cancer. Tonya was confused, saddened, and lost. She didn’t understand the journey God was taking her on, and she didn’t know where to begin to pick up the pieces. Tonya couldn’t allow her mind to accept that her daughter was no longer living, so she told herself that Te’Andra was “on vacation” and would be back home soon. It wasn’t until she had Te’Andra’s death certificate in her hand that she accepted the reality of her daughter’s death.  

In 2020, Tonya found purpose again and birthed the Te’Andra Tough Foundation. Tonya knew how many hearts her daughter had touched with her exuberant personality and zest for life, so she thought that telling her story would resonate even with those who had never met her. Through the Te’Andra Tough Foundation, Tonya felt that her daughter could live through the lives of others who are saved from this rare form of cancer.  

Te'Andra Tough Foundation Christmas Gala flyerTonya is hosting her first annual Te’Andra Tough Christmas Fundraiser in partnership with Schawayna Raie & Friends. Schawayna Raie is pleased to partner with the Te’Andra Tough Foundation to support someone who once supported her. The event will be held on Sunday, Dec. 18, at the Onyx Event Center in Avon from 5:00–8:30 p.m. Schawayna Raie will be providing the entertainment and singing an array of popular Christmas songs. There will also be a silent auction, food, drinks, vendors, and an opportunity to contribute to the Te’Andra Tough Foundation.  

Tonya didn’t realize that all of those days of supporting and volunteering for other nonprofits and causes would give her the insight needed to start her own foundation. Through this foundation, Tonya wants to assist medical leaders to find an early detection tool to catch appendix cancer before it becomes Stage IV. Tonya wants Te’Andra Tough Foundation to be the go-to organization for all things appendix cancer. Her goal is to add an annual walkathon, merchandise for raising funds, awareness campaigns, and a day celebrating the lives of those who were lost and the many who’ve survived appendix cancer due to her efforts.  

Although Te’Andra is no longer here on Earth, her smile, laugh, and zest for life will continue through the many lives that the Te’Andra Tough Foundation will save. Te’Andra’s story is not finished being written — it will just be told through her mother Tonya Adams and the Te’Andra Tough Foundation.  

To learn how to support the Te’Andra Tough Foundation, go to www.TeAndraToughFoundation.org and click on the “contact us” tab.  

Schawayna Raie is a national recording artist and philanthropist located in Indianapolis. She is an executive producer of “Schawayna Raie & Friends: A Christmas Benefits Celebration” fundraiser, as well as the creator of Uplift Your Sister, which presents the annual PhenomeMOM Awards. You can connect with Schawayna on YouTubeFacebook, and Instagram, as well as on her websites www.SchawaynaRaie.com and www.UpliftYourSister.org.

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