St. Jude pediatric cancer survivor Hayley Arceneaux youngest American to fly to space

This September Inspiration4 crew member Hayley Arceneaux will be the first pediatric cancer survivor and youngest American to go to space, all to raise awareness and support for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital®.

Arceneaux will serve as the crew’s medical officer. The 29-year-old is a physician assistant at St. Jude, where she was treated for osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer, at age 10.

Inspiration4 is the world’s first all-civilian mission to space led by commander Jared Isaacman. The 38-year-old founder and chief executive officer of Shift4 Payments donated two of the four seats to St. Jude, with the goal of raising $200 million by 2022 for research and treatment of childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases. Isaacman has committed $100 million to accelerate developments and save more children worldwide. 

Isaacman will occupy the mission seat that stands for Leadership. He donated two seats to St. Jude: The mission seat called Hope to Arceneaux and the Generosity seat to Christopher Sembroski, a 41-year-old aerospace industry employee at Lockheed Martin and United States Air Force veteran. The Prosperity seat will be occupied by Dr. Sian Proctor, a 51-year-old entrepreneur, educator, trained pilot and active voice in the space exploration community. 

Being not only the youngest American going to space, but also the first pediatric cancer survivor and first person with a prosthesis to go to space, a visibly happy Arceneaux says, “I am excited to show my St. Jude patients and kids around the world that they can accomplish their dreams.”

Reminiscing about her days at St.Jude Children’s Research Hospital as a child in a blogpost she says, “I remember pretending to be angry as we arrived at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, but in reality, I was just so scared. At the time, cancer to me seemed like a death sentence because everyone I had known who had it passed away. As soon as I entered the doors of St. Jude, however, everything changed. I felt hope, a sense of optimism that I could get through this.”  

During her one-year treatment at St.Jude for bone cancer, Arceneaux had to get surgery to replace her knee and had a metal rod put in her left thigh bone to save her leg. “I’m really excited to show all these kids going through cancer treatment what they can do too,” Arceneaux said.

This mission is a cause for humanity to help children here on Earth and will be the first time that civilians go to orbit as part of a mission, unaffiliated with any government space agency. The Dragon spacecraft plans to travel into space and orbit the planet for a few days before its water landing.

Elaborating on her training experience Arceneaux says, “We received Centrifuge training, water survival training (for the landing) and the crew’s hike up Mount Rainier as a team-building exercise.” 

Her goal is to travel to all seven continents before turning 30. She has visited over 20 countries to-date and the crew has bonded during training and plans to visit Antarctica after the mission.

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St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center devoted solely to children. Treatments invented at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent to more than 80 percent since the hospital opened more than 50 years ago. 

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