South Pole Doc Who Treated Own Cancer Dead at 57

Disease returned after long remission
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 24, 2009 9:28 AM CDT
In this 1999 file photo released by the National Science Foundation, Dr. Jerri Nielsen, a National Science Foundation physician, is shown at the ceremonial South Pole.    ((AP Photo/National Science Foundation, File))
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(Newser) – Dr. Jerri Nielsen FitzGerald, who diagnosed and treated her own breast cancer before a dramatic rescue from the South Pole, has died at age 57, her husband said today, passing away yesterday at their home in Southwick, Mass. Her cancer had been in remission until it returned in August 2005.

FitzGerald was the only doctor at the National Science Foundation's Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in winter 1999 when she discovered a lump in her breast. Extreme cold didn't permit a rescue, so with guidance from US-based doctors via the Internet, she performed a biopsy on herself with the help of staff. She treated herself with anti-cancer drugs delivered during a mid-July airdrop in blackout, freezing conditions, until she could be rescued by the Air National Guard in October.