Friday, June 26, 2009

Courage in all things

Read this fascinating article online at cnn.com about the woman doctor Jerri Nielsen who recently died of cancer. She was the one who discovered in 1999 that she had breast cancer while isolated at the South Pole on assignment with nowhere to go for treatment, so she treated herself. They were able to parachute chemotherapy medicine to her and then airlift her out in very dangerous conditions.

She returned home to the states, completed her cancer treatment, married and wrote a book about her experiences. Then cancer returned to her bones and later her brain, she died recently. Several quotes from her lectures and writing were so outstanding I wanted to capture them for us all to ponder whatever our life's challenges:

I'm not afraid of death. I've come to accept it as being part of life, and I think I've come to accept it earlier than my years because of what's happened to me." She said that after learning her cancer had returned, "after about three weeks of going through a kind of terror, I felt the most incredible peace come over me. Now I am very happy and excited about going forward with my life. The metastatic disease is now just another part of me, another thing that has happened to me."

"She was always upbeat," Diana Cahill said. "She never really dwelled upon her illness. She told people to live every day, and it was about what kind of life you lived. She was really inspirational to a lot of people around the world."

She told the Free Press in March that the cancer had spread to her brain but still displayed her inspiring grit. "I'm not as smart a girl as I used to be," she told the newspaper. "I'm not as hard a worker, that's for sure. But I'm still doing everything, I'm writing a book and giving speeches, and I'm really having a beautiful winter."

Nielsen told Psychology Today, "The things that make you strong, and make you feel as though you've accomplished something, are not the easy ones; it's the things you had to work and struggle through. Those are what give us our depth -- that make us not gray and plain and nothing but give us depth and texture and longing.

"I believe you're always much better off knowing what the real truth is. I think it's only then that you can come to grips with your illness, or with any difficult situation. Some people call this process 'mourning.' I prefer to call it tiring of the fear and the depression and the denial, and the fake optimism and the irritation of it all -- and just saying, 'Hey, I'm tired of feeling bad about this. Now I go on.' "

11 comments:

Jo, a retired teacher said...

Wow, I thought she was some lady when I first read about her treatment in Antarctica. Your post only made me more impressed. We'd all like to think we had that kind of courageous attitude.

kavita said...

wow.....amazing and very inspirational story.......i too read about her earlier but not in details.....thanks for this story.

Playwright Chick said...

Incredible story. She's right...death is a part of life. And it is better to let go of feeling bad, let go of the fear, and live the life left. Just move on down the road, baby! Excellent post!

gigihawaii said...

If she died with courage, imagine her life without cancer. She was a person to emulate. I hope I am as brave when my time comes.

SandyCarlson said...

She, like Randy Pausch, is an angel. To each of us. Thank you for these words.

Amy De Trempe said...

Very inspiring. I hope I can be as strong and courageous in my life and when my time comes.

Linda Reeder said...

I like her advice for the end game. Surrender to the reality, end the fear, and just live each day.

Cheryl and Ashton said...

I too admired her for taking charge of her health while in Antartica but this post really opened my eyes. What a brave woman and what wonderful wisdom she had. I too hope that I can be as strong, in my daily life and in the future. Thanks for sharing.

Jean said...

I remember reading of Jerri Nielsen when she was in Antarctica and treated herself for breast cancer. I wasn't aware that she'd died. I'm sorry to hear she has, but really, her statement about accepting death as a part of life, etc., are incredible and inspiring.

Rambling Woods said...

I was sorry to hear of her passing as I had read about her and also saw a movie...very admirable woman...

Kay said...

Oh my goodness! What an amazing person. Thank you for sharing this with us, Lin. She is really a role model for us to aspire to be like.