Friday Frontline: Childhood Cancer Survivor Becomes Crew Member on First All-Civilian Mission to Space, CRC Survivors Play Alongside PGA Tour Champions in Golf Tournament, and More

From a childhood cancer survivor being named a member of the first all-civilian SpaceX mission to colorectal cancer survivors golfing alongside PGA Tour champions in the Cologuard Classic, here’s what’s happening in the cancer space this week.

On Monday, childhood cancer survivor Hayley Arceneaux was chosen to participate in the first all-civilian mission to space.

After overcoming bone cancer at age 10, Arceneaux, now 29, is also poised to become the youngest American in space, when she boards SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft in late 2021. She was selected by billionaire and civilian pilot Jared Isaacman, who will also serve as the Inspiration4 mission leader.

Arceneaux, who currently works at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee – where she was treated as a child – had dreamed of becoming an astronaut. But the steel rods in her leg from cancer treatment led her to believe that dream would never come true. That is, until Isaacman invited her to join the team, and serve as “an inspiration to people all over the world,” as he stated on Twitter, “Not just those with dreams of going to space, but to all people who need hope when encountering life challenges.” Isaacman hopes to raise $200 million for St. Jude’s on the mission.

"Being the youngest American to go to space is such an honor, but honestly, what I'm more excited about is being the first pediatric cancer survivor to go to space," Arceneaux said. "I would just love to inspire my patients to dream big and to not limit themselves. And I really hope to show them while I'm in space that absolutely anything is possible."

Tonsil cancer survivor Tim Hardesty revealed an MD Anderson Cancer Center-inspired tattoo to share his story.

Hardesty received his diagnosis and treatment at the cancer center in the summer of 2020, and was inspired by his new “family” to get the tattoo of the center’s logo of the word “cancer” with a striking red line through the center, placed prominently on his right bicep for all to see.

“It sends a huge message with one simple graphic: we can end cancer,” says Hardesty, who decided to get tattooed while he was still undergoing treatment for his HPV-related tonsil cancer. “My wife was a little upset that I was running down to the tattoo shop instead of resting. But I was motivated and wanted to do it. I saw the design on a T-shirt in the MD Anderson gift shop, and it really spoke to me. MD Anderson’s goal is to end cancer by any means necessary.”

Cancer survivors are playing alongside PGA Tour Champions in the annual Cologuard Classic golf event in Tucson, Arizona this week.

Stage 4 colorectal cancer (CRC) survivor Mike Mancini is one of three Fight CRC advocates taking part in the tournament, which aims to raise awareness around the disease.

Carole Motycka, who is also a CRC survivor and Mancini’s girlfriend, served as his caddie, while he was paired with PGA Tour Champion Jerry Kelly. The couple met during Fight CRC’s annual Call-on Congress event in Washington, D.C. in 2019.

In addition to Mancini and Motycka, 12 other survivors from Fight CRC will be raising awareness virtually throughout the event, during which all 81 athletes will play on behalf of a CRC patient, survivor or caregiver.

“We are excited that colorectal cancer survivors can still safely be a part of this annual event; it’s a highlight of our year and a favorite way to kick off Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month,” said Fight CRC President Anjee Davis. “Carole and Mike are incredible advocates and I can’t wait to watch them experience a moment like this and golf with the pros!"

Ovarian teratoma survivor Dana Giordano sets her sights on the Olympics.

At age 14, Giordano thought the mass in her stomach was just a sign of weight gain. But when a piercing stomachache that wouldn’t go away landed her in Children’s Hospital in Boston, doctors found a 5½-pound cancerous tumor. The surgery to remove it was successful, but left her weakened and feeling without purpose – until she rediscovered running.

Giordano went on to become an All-American in the two-mile and 3,200-meter race in high school, and was then named a three-time All-American and seven-time Ivy League Champion. After missing an invitation to the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials by one spot, she was determined to make it on her next attempt in December, where she finished fourth in the 5,000 meters, qualifying her for the Olympic Trials later this year.

“I’m betting on myself above all else,” Giordano says. “I’ve always dreamt of representing my country at the highest level.”

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