ORLANDO, Fla. – Children battling cancer across the globe have a new role model in childhood cancer survivor and Inspiration4 crew member Hayley Arceneaux.
“Who doesn’t want to be an astronaut when they grow up?” said Jay Brock, the patient events coordinator at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando.
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Arceneaux made history in September as one of four civilians aboard SpaceX’s Inspiration4 mission. The mission ushered in a new era of human spaceflight and changed the horizon for children battling cancer.
“There are definitely role models out there, and this is a first. This is the first time, you know, a kid that is battling cancer right now can look up into the sky, literally, and say, ‘I can achieve that. I can make that my dream. I can go out there and get it,’” Brock said.
Brock says during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month they’ve been using the hospital’s internal broadcast to talk to their patients about Arceneaux and gauge the kids’ interest in learning more about her. He said many patients would benefit from hearing more from Arceneaux.
“We would definitely love that. We actually have the perfect patient for it. She is thrilled and would love to talk to Hayley because she also wants to go to space. She knows everything about space, and so we even have one of our patients who has already agreed to interview her if we can get her via Zoom or in the studio,” Brock said.
Arceneaux, a physician with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, was chosen as a member of the Inspiration4 crew to represent hope. She was diagnosed with bone cancer at the age of 10 and became the youngest person to fly to orbital space and the first in orbit with a prosthetic.
Brock said for many young patients, following Arceneaux’s journey is like watching a story unfold.
“I think that there’s so much parallel between Hayley’s actual journey into space and her battle with cancer and a lot of the treatments and the battle that our kids face every day going through cancer,” Brock said.
Brock is hopeful the patients in Orlando will have a chance to interview Arceneaux and learn from her time battling cancer and flying in space.
“These kids, including Hayley, have to have a lot of courage and they have to be brave and they have to be willing to adjust to the unknowns that are going to happen during their journey,” Brock said.