South Pole Cancer Survivor Tells Her Story

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In 1999, Americans found out about a physician in Antarctica who discovered she had breast cancer. Thursday, Nielsen spoke with local residents.

"It completely changed my life," said Dr. Jerri Nielsen of her south pole excursion. "Like so many times when you decide to take a different path than you have been, you can change your life totally, and that's what happened."

She wanted an adventure, so Nielsen committed herself to one year in the Antarctic, becoming the physician for a team of 40 scientists. Little did she know she would be the one who needed care. Diagnosed with breast cancer, Nielsen couldn't leave her icy home-away-from-home due to the harsh winters, meaning she had to treat herself.

"Being a physician, I knew the most important thing in breast cancer is that you find it early and get it out, so I just accepted that I was going to die," she said.

Through biopsies and chemotherapy, Nielsen thought not only of herself, but her south pole friends.

"I was worried about my people being taken care of, because I was the only medical person, and they would be left in that environment with no physician if I died," Nielsen said.

The treatments kept her alive until her rescue. She works as a physician in Ohio now, but through her book and many speaking engagements, she's inspiring many, like the 800 people who attended the Striving and Thriving luncheon in College Station Thursday.

"She'll have an impact," said local resident Vicki Friedberg, who attended the event. "I will take better care of myself as a woman, and be inspired to be better about doing breast exams."

"Once I wrote the book and started talking to people, I realized I could make a difference in many people's lives quickly," Nielsen said.