Saturday, June 27, 2009

Farewell Jerri Nielsen FitzGerald

Jerri Nielsen FitzGerald

Most of us heard about Jerri Nielsen FitzGerald during the long and dark days of 1999's Antarctic Winter, when she was battling breast cancer, which she diagnosed and treated acting as her own doctor, unable to leave or to get help. She wrote about her experiences in the book Ice Bound: A Doctor's Incredible Battle for Survival at the South Pole.

Unable to get outside help, Jerri performed a biopsy on herself. A machinist helped her with her IV and test slides, a welder helped with her chemotherapy. Chemo drugs were supplied by a daring airdrop by the US Air Force in freezing and blackout conditions. Eventually she was lifted off of the ice by the Air National Guard when the weather reached a balmy 58 degrees BELOW zero in one of the earliest flights ever.

Unbelievably, she returned to Antarctica several times after that. She never let an adventure go by without participating.

"I would rather not have it. But the cancer is part of me. It's given my life color and texture. Everyone has to get something. Some people are ugly, some people are stupid. I get cancer," she said.

At 57, I think Jerri Nielsen FitzGerald taught us all a lot about surviving and about living. Thank you, Jerri, your spirit touched many and we are all richer for it.

If you haven't read her book, it's a great read!

1 comment:

Annie said...

Thanks for this post! I have enjoyed following her story, as breast cancer plays a significant role in our family as well. I had not realized she had passed. What a shame this will probably be overlooked in the media, especially with all of her amazing accomplishments and positive outlook towards her situation. I think of you often, take care.