Better Than 'E.R.': High Drama at the South Pole

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Whoever said that modern technology has taken the human spirit out of adventure? The plight of a woman at the South Pole's Amundsen-Scott research station who has discovered a lump in her breast shows that boldness and bravery are alive and well. Trapped in the hellish cold and ice of the region, which averages 80 degrees below zero during the current Antarctic winter, the woman, who is the doctor of the station, according to the New York Times, has had to deal with the possibility that she may have breast cancer. The Air Force jet crew, which over the weekend dropped essential medical equipment and supplies for the woman, had to fly through extreme cold, blustery and dark conditions few would ever dare to challenge. And the woman, who has requested anonymity, may now face the awesome possibility of having to perform medical procedures on herself.

"Portable state-of-the-art medical equipment, sophisticated planes and modern computer links have made this medical mission possible," says TIME senior writer Jeffrey Kluger, "but it is only the intrepidness of the jet crew and the woman that will make it work." The woman, in particular, faces huge challenges. If a biopsy is called for, says Kluger, "she may have to do things herself that would make anyone skittish." These could include inserting a needle into her own breast tissue, staining the cells and interpreting the results. "These are things that would be hard enough to go through at the hands of someone else," says Kluger. Having to do it on oneself would have to be an unimaginable ordeal that we may never truly appreciate.