Well Behaved Women Rarely Make History, Volume XXIII

Thursday, June 25, 2009
This is Dr. Jerri Nielsen FitzGerald. She died this morning at her home, a victim of breast cancer. She was 57.

While millions of women fight the good fight against breast cancer, and most of them bravely and well, Dr. FitzGerald was special. In 1999, Dr. FitzGerald volunteered to "winter over" at the South Pole as the resident M.D. for the scientists, construction workers and other support people. Shortly after the last flight departed for the winter, she discovered a lump in her breast. With the help of her assistant (a welder), she performed her own biopsy, which was inconclusive.
Doctors monitoring her condition via satellite e-mail decided that she needed chemotherapy drugs and medical equipment. The only way to deliver them was through a rare midwinter airdrop, successfully completed in July by an Air Force jet in total darkness -- in a field lit only by fire.
She underwent her chemotherapy at the hands of her assistants (the aforementioned welder, a carpenter, and who knows who-else), and at first the tumor shrank. But then it started to grow again, and she was evacuated in October of 1999, in one of the earliest recorded flights in a South Pole winter.

She subsequently went into remission, but the cancer came back in 2005, and finally took her life.

My sympathy goes out to her surviving family members. She was a remarkable woman. With the help of a welder, a carpenter, the U.S. Air Force and the New York Air National Guard, she wrestled another 10 years of life from an improbable survival story. Ill-behaved, indeed.

You will be missed.

3 comments:

mom in northern said...

one of the EDU channels did a piece on her awhile back...tough lady

kimby said...

Dr. FitzGerald was one of the Heroes that Mom followed when she herself was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. She said that if the good Doc could beat it, so could she...sadly they were both just not strong enough.

God Speed Dr. FitzGerald. Say Hi to Mom for me......

Claudia said...

I remember that story back in 1999. I lost track of her since and it makes me very sad to hear this.