Young cancer patients partner with NASA

A group of young cancer fighters makes history by teaming up with astronauts.  They not only helped get art in space for the first time, but astronauts are wearing it!

Young patients from Texas Children's Hospital and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center feel like astronauts, so excited to be on the floor of Mission Control at Johnson Space Center, they feel like "their" feet aren't on the ground!   

The space suit called "Unity" that astronaut Jack Fischer wore on the International Space Station has quite a story behind it. The painted panels come from young cancer patients locally, but also from the four other nations that created the I.S.S., including:  Russia, Germany, Japan, and Canada.

My son, Caleb, has battled leukemia since he was six years old and couldn't believe he got to experience this once in a lifetime opportunity. He got to talk to Fischer about the most amazing thing he has seen in space.

"I've seen so many great things up here, everything is really cool - from food, experiments, aurora, looking out at the stars is amazing.  It's great to work up here together to help make things better on Earth.  It's hard to choose one thing that is the coolest.  Wait - I'll change that answer.  This suit is the coolest thing I've seen in space - period," exclaims a smiling Fischer.

Astronaut Nicole Stotter laughs at his response, while on the floor of Mission Control and states, "We'll slather some awesome sauce on that - thank you very much!"  

Mia is also a cancer fighter, who wrote and sang a special song about the space art project.

Here is the first chorus: "I wish everyone on this planet, not just parents who care about us, not doctors who are all around, not nurses who help us a lot, we believe the happy days are coming when we wake up without a port.  We'll be healthy like the other children, no pain, no crying, no pokes. God help all the kids on the planet, help all the children please. God help all the kids on the planet, we need them to be cancer free." 

Little Mia choked-up the astronauts, telling them she believes they're closer to God in space.  She hopes they'll release a message into outer space, like a bottle at sea.

This is what it would say: "Dear God, can you please cure cancer for all the kids on the planet," states Mia to the astronauts.

"I loved your song - it's quite beautiful and the words are inspiring.  We don't have bottles up here but we can launch a satellite, so maybe we can put your message in a satellite," answered Astronaut Peggy Whitson.

"Representing physicians in Texas, I can tell you it's a very emotional moment to hear everyone come together regardless of faith, background, or ethnicity, in a common cause to fight cancer and to understand that art is a language that can be spoken by many," says Dr. Carlos Cardenas, who is the President of the Texas Medical Association.

Artist Ian Cion came up with the bright art idea and helped little cancer patients paint, around the world, with retired Astronaut Nicole Stott.

"Because of the isolation that is necessary for cancer patients, there are a lot of parallels in what they're going through and what astronauts are going through.  There seems to be real infinity between the patients and astronauts.  They go through a lot of the same physical challenges," says Cion.  

"This project is the most meaningful thing I have ever supported. I believe in what we're doing in space, I flew to space and did work up there, but I believe I went there to support something like this. This is inspired by space, but it's about  what our suits are named:  Hope, courage, unity, exploration, ," says retired Astronaut Nicole Stott.

Patients are creating Exploration, the next suit to go in space.  Cancer fighter Jacob has a plan.  What better than a telescope?  It has been used for exploration for many years," smiles Jacob.  Jack Fischer is turning somersaults in space over the fun ideas and project! "Keep the fight going for these wonderful,

Once the astronauts were back on the ground, patients at Texas Children's Hospital Cancer Center got an out-of-this-world experience.  They got a special visit from astronauts and a Russian Cosmonaut.  They took time to paint with patients on patches of fabric that will be weaved into a spacesuit for astronauts.   

"Space is about exploration, discovery, discovery about ourselves, and hope for the future, so that's what we try to bring down here to these kids to let them know they're not alone in their battle, and we're in step with them and sharing hope and miracles of space flight, as well," says Astronaut Doug Wheelock.  

Astronaut Jack Fischer understands what these young patients are going through, after helping his own daughter endure cancer treatment even got to talk to her from space, when she joined other pediatric cancer patients on the floor of Mission Control.  She choked back tears as she looked at her loving father.

"Hi Dad.  I want to say thank you to all of the astronauts who are doing cancer research - y'all are making a big impact, so thank you," exclaims his daughter.  "I am a cancer dad so it's special to me, but these kids are inspirational for all of us.  They're so great.  Because of what they go through at such a young age, they're so mature, and that inner strength is so inspirational to everybody," says Fischer.  

We met up with Oncologist Dr. ZoAnn Dreyer with Texas Children's Hospital, who is very proud of the arts program provided to her cancer patients.

"This is spectacular!  It's life changing for everyone, certainly for us, and much more so for those children, and I think for the astronauts, to get to meet these kids who are truly on these medical journeys, so we are thrilled! It's so important for children to have a positive experience, because if they're happy and positive, they tolerate their chemo, then their chances of a cure are so much greater, so I truly believe this sort of thing is just as important as the chemo that we give to them," says Dr. Dreyer.  

"My hope is that a lot of these kids will find themselves in space one day, painting up there while they're living and working in space!  That would be cool," Stott laughs.  Houston... that would not be a problem.

For more information on the spacesuit art project:

Also, here's a link to Mia's touching song: