Woman Who Beat Bone Cancer Will Become The Youngest American In Space

Whenever we read a story about an epic adventure, it tends to start with an unexpected visit or message that gives someone a sudden opportunity to do what they've always dreamed of.

While it's gratifying to read in a story and a great way to hook us into a tale that will excite our imaginations, it's also not something we usually think will realistically happen in our own lives. After all, it's not like people who dreamed of being astronauts as children just get phone calls where someone offers to send them to space, right?

Well, in the case of one Tennessee woman, that is exactly what happened.

At the age of 10, Hayley Arceneaux had the pleasure of visiting the NASA headquarters in Houston, Texas.

And as Good Morning America expressed, she became enthralled with the work the agency does and the facilities that astronauts train in.

In her words, "Of course I wanted to be an astronaut after that, who doesn't?"

But the future seemed far more uncertain for her a few months after that visit when she was diagnosed with bone cancer.

As the Associated Press reported, this led her to undergo surgery at St. Jude's Children’s Research Hospital that removed her knee and gave her a titanium rod in her left thigh bone.

Although she still has a limp and experiences occasional leg pain, this procedure was instrumental in ensuring that Arceneaux survived her bout with cancer.

And the treatment she received at St. Jude's clearly meant a lot to her.

So much so, in fact, that according to the BBC, she would end up becoming a physician assistant at the very same hospital that saved her life as a child.

And it was her story and her position there that afforded her what can only be described as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

On Janaury 5, she received a phone call asking if she would like to join Inspiration4, the world's first all-civilian space mission.

Although the Falcon9 rocket involved and the other technical infrastructure for this mission is being provided by SpaceX, the BBC reported that the mission itself was conceptualized and will be commanded by 38-year-old billionaire Jared Isaacman.

Isaacman pursued this idea in the hopes of raising $200 million for St. Jude and he wanted Arceneaux to be the flight's medical officer.

Her response? As she put it, "Immediately, I said, 'yes, yes please.'"

Until that call came, Arceneaux figured she would never have a chance to go to space due to NASA's medical requirements.

According to Good Morning America, she had long heard from her orthopedic surgeon what she wasn't allowed to do as a result of receiving her titanium implant. But once SpaceX cleared her for flight, it became apparent that being an astronaut wasn't one of them.

As she put it, "I can't go skiing, I can't go skydiving, I can't jump on a trampoline. Going into space, I'm not limited at all. I really think this zero gravity is going to be so freeing."

After months of training, Arceneaux's foray into space will earn her a series of historic firsts.

As the BBC outlined, not only will she be the first astronaut with a prosthetic body part, but also the first cancer survivor to visit space and at 29 years of age, the youngest American to do so.

The mission will have an additional two members that are yet to be determined because their involvement will be determined by a sweepstakes contest and a contest requiring creative use of Isaacman's Shift4Payments platform.

Arceneaux is hoping that this mission inspires children who are now in the situation she used to find herself in.

In her words, "I think this mission is really going to give these kids an opportunity to look forward. I really hope that it shows them that they can do absolutely anything."

h/t: Good Morning America, BBC, Associated Press