Hayley Arceneaux beat bone cancer, so she figures rocketing into orbit on SpaceX’s first private flight should be a piece of cosmic cake. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital announced that the 29-year-old physician assistant (PA) will launch later this year, joining a billionaire who’s using his purchased spaceflight as a charitable fundraiser.
Arceneaux will make history on two counts when she blasts off this fall with entrepreneur Jared Isaacman and two other contest winners. She will become the youngest American in space AND the first person to launch from Earth with a prosthesis. When she was 10, Arceneaux had surgery at St. Jude to replace her knee. She also received a titanium rod in her left thigh bone. Although she walks with a limp and suffers occasional leg pain, SpaceX has cleared Arceneaux to fly as well as serve as the crew’s medical officer.
“I told myself over and over when I was going through treatment that God has a plan,” explained Arceneaux in an interview for St. Jude. She’s right. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope,” says Jeremiah 29:11. It’s been nearly 20 years since Arceneaux’s battle with cancer. “I’m overwhelmingly grateful for His faithfulness and my wild journey.” That journey keeps getting wilder.
“My battle with cancer really prepared me for space travel,” says Arceneaux. Her message for young patients and other cancer survivors is that “the sky is not even the limit anymore.” She believes, “It’s going to mean so much to these kids to see a survivor in space.”
So how in the world did Arceneaux score a seat on the premier private flight out of this world? Isaacman announced his space mission on February 1. He pledges to raise $200 million for St. Jude, half of which will be his own contribution. As the flight’s commander, he gifted one of the four SpaceX Dragon capsule seats to St. Jude. The research hospital considered its employees who had once been patients and chose Arceneaux. The PA was at home in Memphis, Tennessee, when she got the unexpected call asking her to represent St. Jude in space. Her enthusiasm was apparent: “Yes! Yes! Please!”
As for the two other crew members, one will be a sweepstakes winner. Anyone who donated to St. Jude in February is eligible. The other seat will go to a business owner who uses Isaacman’s credit card-processing company.