The youngest American to ever orbit the earth—cancer survivor Hayley Arceneaux—believes that when we face our fears with hope and faith, extraordinary things can happen. In this week’s episode of Watching America, she discusses her memoir Wild Ride: A Memoir of I.V. Drips and Rocket Ships.

wa book WildRide

In her book, Arceneaux recounts her odyssey, from her cancer diagnosis at age 10 and the yearlong treatment that inspired her goal of working with pediatric cancer patients, to living through her father’s terminal cancer diagnosis, to getting her lifelong dream job at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital as a physician assistant. Just when she thought things couldn’t get better, she was invited to go to space as a St. Jude ambassador as part of Inspiration4, the world’s first all-civilian mission to orbit. She served as the crew’s medical officer.

Her journey began when, at age 10, her knees began to ache. Her doctor thought it was just a sprain, but a few months later, tests revealed Arceneaux suffered from osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer. Her family turned to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for her treatment and care, which included chemotherapy and a limb-saving surgery. Her experience inspired her to choose a career working with young cancer patients.

She obtained an undergraduate degree in Spanish in 2014, and obtained her physician assistant (PA) degree in 2016. She now works at St. Jude – the very place that saved her life – as a PA with leukemia and lymphoma patients. She was thrilled when given the opportunity to join Inspiration4. The mission was named in recognition of the four-person crew that raised awareness and over $240 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The milestone journey represented a new era for human spaceflight and exploration.

“I absolutely loved becoming the first PA in space and serving as the Medical Officer for Inspiration4,” Arceneaux wrote on her Instragram account during Physician Assistant Week this year. “Being a PA has brought me so much fulfillment, growth, and absolute joy.”

Today she is planning new adventures. She plans to visit Antartica with a fellow crew member near the end of this year. She says she hopes her story shows other cancer survivors that anything is possible.

Follow Arceneaux’s adventures on Instagram and Twitter.

Hear her conversation with Watching America’s Dr. Alan Campbell.