By Taylor Hemness - email
Dr. Jerri Nielsen went to work at the South Pole ten years ago. However, not long after getting there, she discovered a lump in her breast.
Unable to leave for help, she was forced to take drastic action to treat herself.
"I was just scratching myself reading, and I could feel it. And I thought, 'I gambled, and I lost.'"
Just like that, a new job took a frightening new turn. Stuck on the South Pole for eight months, Dr. Jerri Nielsen thought she could just ride things out, until her condition got worse.
"I started to get big lymph nodes under my arms," Nielsen says. "And I realized, 'Gee, I could die before I get out.'"
Before telling anyone of her condition, Nielsen had trained a couple of people on how to perform certain medical procedures.
So after practicing on potatoes, a welder helped her to perform a biopsy.
"I would do it for a while, until I got tired, and then he would do it for a while," Nielsen says. "And then I would do it, and then he would do it, because I was sort of rolled up in a ball."
She sent images back to doctors in the U.S. Unable to get her out, they air-dropped supplies, and she taught another person to administer her chemotherapy.
But through the entire ordeal, she says fear never entered the picture.
"I've spent my whole life trying to learn to not be afraid of things I was afraid of," Nielsen says. "A good example is I was afraid of seeing people hurt or dying, so I became an emergency room doctor."
Once she got back to the states, Dr. Nielsen went through several operations. She's spent the last decade sharing her story with others, but now, she's running out of time.
A few years ago, she learned her cancer had returned, and spread to her brain. Then, this week, a doctor told her she has two months to live.
She says she's still not afraid, because she knows how blessed she's been, and that's how the hopes people will remember her.
"Many people get more time, but do they get as much of a life as I've had," Nielsen asks. "We all have a story, we've all had a life. What's important is that you're kind, and that you're sincere, and honest, and that you've worked hard. That's what matters, and if people would say that about me, I would be so happy. She was kind."