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Hayley Arceneaux      

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital Employee; Bone Cancer Survivor; Youngest American in Space

A pediatric cancer diagnosis at age 10 did not put dreams on hold for Hayley Arceneaux. Her experience at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital® not only cured her, but also changed her career aspirations. Now a Physician Assistant at St. Jude, she’s giving back to the place that saved her life as a child. In a journey that’s come full circle, in September 2021 she served as an ambassador for the hospital on Inspiration4, the first all-civilian mission to orbit.

In addition to serving as the chief medical officer on Inspiration4, she made history in other ways, becoming the first person with a prosthesis, the first pediatric cancer survivor, and the youngest American to ever go to space.

Arceneaux was 10 years old and preparing to earn her black belt in Taekwondo when one of her knees began to ache. A lump above her knee turned out to be osteosarcoma, bone cancer. Arceneaux’s curative treatment included a year of chemotherapy and limb-sparing surgery, which saved her leg.

She obtained an undergraduate degree in Spanish in 2014, and a Physician Assistant degree in 2016. Arceneaux now works at St. Jude with pediatric leukemia and lymphoma patients, fulfilling her long-held dream to return to the hospital as a bilingual care provider.

Arceneaux is a world traveler who is still working toward her a goal of visiting very continent. Her past travels have included a month volunteering in local hospitals in Peru plus visits to Nicaragua, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Morocco, New Zealand, Switzerland, Mexico, Colombia and more.

When approached about the opportunity to go to space, Arceneaux reacted first in disbelief, then enthusiasm. Family members, including a brother and sister-in-law who are both aerospace engineers, as well as her mom, strongly supported her decision.

Training for space included 6 month of intensive preparations, including academics, long hours spent in the capsule simulator, centrifuge, hypoxia, and water survival training. The crew also climbed Mount Rainier.

On September 15, 2021, Arceneaux and her fellow Inspiration4 crew members launched on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Resilience. They successfully orbited the Earth for three days and returned to Earth, splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean. While in orbit they participated in multiple biomedical research endeavors.

A highlight of Arceneaux’s experience in space was her video call with former and current patients at St. Jude. “I made sure this call would happen and I could show what their future could look like, whether they want to be astronauts or whatever big dream they want to come true.”

The mission has raised over $240 million for St. Jude. Inspiration4 continues to make an impact for St. Jude and beyond.

Post-space life for Arceneaux includes returning to Memphis to continue her work as a PA, and enjoying the new perspective that going to space has brought.

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