In 2014, Joanna Dennstaedt was like most 34-year-old women. She was super busy, always running; a wife and mom to four young children.
“What I thought was living a super overwhelming life was nothing compared to the super overwhelming life that was about to happen,” Dennstaedt said.
The energetic former college athlete, who later coached at Messiah College, noticed a mole on her upper leg.
“I wasn’t worried about it,” Dennstaedt said. “They weren’t worried about it when they saw it at the regular clinic. But it was what we all didn’t imagine it would be.”
What it was would send this young mother into a literal fight for her life.
“Stage three metastatic melanoma,” Dennstaedt said. “So I had two major surgeries to remove that. It had metasticized into my lympathic system.”
With that diagnosis, came a major shift in her life’s focus.
“My world crashed in around me,” she said. “That whole ‘rug pulled out from under you’ thing…I lived that. It happened.”
To help her survive that crash was a community of people who stepped in to help. But it was some anonymous encouragement that perhaps made the most profound impact. She received a package from someone she didn’t know who had simply heard about her story from a friend of a friend. That stranger, who lived in Ohio, just wanted to brighten Dennstaedt’s day.
“I was floored I think at that point,” Dennstaedt said. “I tell people that’s the day that started the vision for Radiant Hope because I thought a stranger states away that has no idea who I am would choose to step into my mess and encourage me in a really, really hard season of my life.”
Dennstaedt has now run her non-profit, Radiant Hope, for four years. She’s sent about 2,000 care packages to people just like her; who are fighting a cancer battle and may need to be reminded they are not fighting alone.
“I didn’t say, ‘I can’t wait until I can start a non-profit’ my whole life,” Dennstaedt said. “It kind of all just fell into place perfectly.”
Dennstaedt said, despite her struggles, she knows God has put her exactly where she’s meant to be.
“I wouldn’t choose what I had to go through to be here, but I can see so clearly how all the things in my life prepared me for what I was going to be doing now,” Dennstaedt said.
Dennstaedt is now healthy and gets regular check-ups to ensure that her good health continues. Her vision for Radiant Hope is to start chapters all across the country so that people can focus on caring for people in their own communities.
For more information about Radiant Hope, click here.
As for that anonymous package she received during treatment, Dennstaedt was able to track down the woman in Ohio and the two have since become friends.
Dennstaedt was nominated for this honor by her friend and former coach at Messiah College, Rob Pepper.
On March 6, watch Good Day PA as we celebrate the four finalists in the Remarkable Women contest. We will announce the winner who will receive a trip to the Mel Robbins Show in New York City.
On Thursday, March 26 at 7:30 p.m. abc27 will air a special program featuring all four finalists and other amazing local women.