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South Pole Doctor Dies

One of the most compelling medical news stories of the last decade was the story of Jerri Nielsen, an emergency room doctor who accompanied dozens of National Science Foundation researchers to the South Pole in 1999. She later wrote of wanting to escape to the South Pole to forget an ugly divorce and estrangement from her children.

That winter, Nielsen found a lump on her breast and was forced to perform a biopsy on herself, as the extreme weather conditions made it impossible to stage a rescue mission. She was eventually airlifted to safety under comparably favorable weather conditions -- 58 degrees below zero -- and had a mastectomy.

The cancer went into remission until 2005, the AP said, and she collaborated on a book about her experience at the pole. Susan Sarandon later played her in a TV film about her life; Dr. Nielsen had earlier expressed her hope for Meryl Streep. She died June 23 at her home in Massachusetts, aged 57.

The Post will have a story about her tomorrow, but we welcome your thoughts on her life.

By Adam Bernstein |  June 24, 2009; 11:32 AM ET
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Had no idea her cancer had returned. So sorry to read about her death but glad she seems to have found personal happiness in her last years.

Posted by: pirate1 | June 24, 2009 1:36 PM

Breast cancer took my mother 16 years ago. I was afraid to read Dr. Nielsen's story because of the memories it might stir up, but found it inspiring and amazing. I am grateful she shared her story with us all and am saddened that she has now lost her battle.

Posted by: greatscott47 | June 24, 2009 2:00 PM

i recall the early story of how she had to perform that biopsy on herself and was impressed by her courage.

rip, dr. nielsen; condolensces to her family and friends.

Posted by: mycomment | June 24, 2009 3:12 PM

It's kind of odd to mention that she had hoped Meryl Streep would play her unless it was a big issue in her life that she didn't. Kind of makes her sound displeased with Susan Sarandon playing her...Just a thought.

Posted by: ArlingtonSnowGal | June 24, 2009 4:42 PM

Not sure this is going to make it into the story tomorrow (it's running long) but the good doc apparently thought Ms. Sarandon was a bit too dour -- she thought Meryl Streep's portrayal of Karen Blixen in "Out of Africa" was closer to her own personality. All this according to an interview in the Canadian Globe and Mail newspaper in 2003.

Posted by: Patricia Sullivan | June 24, 2009 5:52 PM

She did things other people do not have the courage to do. I'm sorry to hear about her passing.

Posted by: timscanlon | June 24, 2009 11:18 PM

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