Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Remembering Dr. Jerri Nielson FitzGerald

Going though cancer, and the treatments for it, is tough under the absolute best of circumstances. Now imagine that you learn that you have cancer and:

** You are at a small research station at the South Pole, the most remote and inaccessible location on earth

** It is winter, totally dark 24 x 7, cold and windy beyond anything most of us can even imagine

** It is impossible to leave or to have help flown in

** There is only one medically trained person at the station - a doctor - and that is you

That is what Dr. Jerri Nielson went through in 1999. She had to do a biopsy on her own breast, figure out what type of cancer it was by consulting with specialist via email, and treat herself with chemotherapy drugs dropped over the pole by daring pilots. And she had to continue to provide medical care for the entire research station, even while dealing with all the side effects of chemotherapy. She got through it, and was flown out in an amazing rescue by some really brave pilots – the earliest date that a flight had ever come into the Antarctic spring.

She wrote about her ordeal in her book, “Ice Bound”. It was a book that was inspirational to me in 2002 when I was going through my own battle with cancer.

Unfortunately, Dr. Jerri Nielsen FitzGerald succumbed today from her breast cancer at age 57. Being that age myself, I can assure you that it is very much too young to leave this earth. She was a brave human being, and I believe that her amazing story will inspire people for decades.

Rest in peace, courageous Dr. Jerri.


Rita Ducharme said...

My husband and I were fortunate enough to meet Jerri this past March because we live in the same community as her parents Lorine/Phil during the winter time. What a remarkable woman!
She had gone out of remission and was again battling this dreadful disease with renewed courage and determination all the while traveling the world bringing her experiences and hope to others. It was a pleasure and inspiration to meet her.

Racn4acure said...

Thanks for your comment, Rita. I was very much saddened to learn of her relapse and then her passing. She had an incredible life, and her story captivated and inspired so many.

Please pass on condolences from a stranger to her parents when you next see them. Art