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Fighting for Her Life

Pennsylvania Specialist JoAnne Dennis battles stage 4 brain cancer
SPC JoAnne Dennis and her son, Evan, reunite after her deployment to Kuwait. Photo by Jim Gavenus
Dennis after returning home from the deployment in July 2013. Photo by Jim Gavenus
Dennis reunites with her husband, John, and Evan. Photo by Jim Gavenus

For Specialist JoAnne “JoJo” Dennis of the Pennsylvania National Guard, every day is another fight. And every day is another victory.

In December, just six months after returning from a nine-month deployment to Kuwait, she learned she had stage 4 brain cancer. Doctors said that her type of cancer, glioblastoma multiforme grade 4, is incurable and that most patients usually live only 12 to 36 months. 

Ever since, Dennis, 31, who’s with Pennsylvania’s 228th Brigade Support Battalion, has been going through chemotherapy and radiation treatments, mustering all the strength that has made her not only a fearless patriot but a devoted wife, mom and member of her community.

She has a legion of supporters behind her, and to help manage the costs of medical bills and other expenses, they have created a website to help raise funds—for anyone interested in donating, visit

Dennis says her symptoms began during her deployment but didn’t seem out of the ordinary, given the conditions.

“When I was overseas, I had trouble sleeping and I had headaches,” she says. “I thought that the headaches were just from the lack of sleep. But once I got home, they didn’t stop.”

When the headaches and insomnia continued back in the States, doctors thought she was suffering from depression related to the deployment. But medication didn’t help, and Dennis began experiencing flu-like symptoms and severe disorientation. She went to the ER, where tests revealed a brain tumor.

“We were really devastated,” she says about the news that rocked her, her husband, John, and their 10-year old son, Evan. 

Dennis says the chemo hasn’t been too difficult for her. What is difficult is imagining not being around for her family.

"I just want to see [my son] grow up. I want to be there for graduations,” she told Pennsylvania news site “I want to see him get married. I want to see all of that.”

Dennis is focused on spending time with her family. She has been thankful for the amount of help she has received from friends and family, along with support from the Guard community.

Despite her condition, Dennis is still setting goals. One of them is to go on a trip soon with her family. “We want to go see Italy,” she says. “I don’t know if that’s going to happen, but that’s what we really want to do.”