Meet Hayley Arceneaux, the Cancer Survivor Heading to Space to Inspire Her Patients at St. Jude

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital helped this young medical professional keep looking up — literally.

Never tell Hayley Arceneaux the odds — she'll beat them every time.

Two decades ago, Arceneaux entered St. Jude Children's Research Hospital as a patient. There, she received treatment for bone cancer and beat it. Years later, she grew up to become a physician assistant at the very hospital that saved her. And now, because of her dedication to helping others, she could soon become both the youngest American to ever orbit the Earth and the first person with a prosthetic body part to visit space.

This is all because Arceneaux was hand-selected to become a crew member on Inspiration4, the first all-civilian space flight.

A portrait of Hayley Arceneaux
Mike Brown/Courtesy of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

"It's an incredible honor to be a part of the mission, and even though I can't wait to get up there and experience it, I'm really enjoying the preparation and training," Arceneaux shared with Travel + Leisure. "I love learning and experiencing new things, and I've really enjoyed getting to know the rest of the crew. And I especially love talking to my patients about the mission and showing them life beyond cancer is not only possible, but can be full and meaningful."

Hayley Arceneaux at SpaceX
Courtesy of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

In early 2021, billionaire Jared Isaacman announced that he bought out the entire SpaceX rocket launch on Sept. 15 to ensure the mission wasn't just for the ultra-rich. So, he gave away two of the four seats to St. Jude, one for a sweepstakes winner, and the other for someone who embodied hope — and that's where Arceneaux came in.

SpaceX ship launching
Courtesy of Inspiration4

"When I was invited to join the Inspiration4 mission, I said yes without hesitation," she says. "I knew this would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me, an incredible fundraising effort for the hospital that saved my life, and a source of hope for kids going through cancer treatment."

As for what she's most excited to experience, Arceneaux reveals it's all about looking back and seeing Earth from space and experiencing zero gravity for the first time.

Archival photo of Hayley Arceneaux and her family
Courtesy of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

"On a broader scale, I'm excited for what this mission means for the future of space travel — opening up space travel to civilians and people who might not have been able to meet the physical requirements of traditional astronaut programs," she says. "And I'm excited that our journey is inspiring cancer survivors and others who have overcome challenges to keep pursuing their dreams and to never lose hope that brighter days are around the corner."

Archival photo of Hayley Arceneaux at St. Jude
Courtesy of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Arceneaux also knows that her journey isn't one she's taking alone, but rather alongside every person who helped her, every person she can inspire to notice and give back to St. Jude, and her hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

As Arceneaux says, "The hospital has always represented hope to me and to the patients, and the city rallies around it as a beacon of light for children and for the future wellbeing of generations to come."

Want to get involved? St.Jude has set up a new website so everyone can be a part of the mission, and even win a trip to the launch, here.

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