Polar Doc Confirms Cancer

The Ohio doctor dramatically evacuated on Saturday from America's South Pole scientific base by a U.S. Air Force plane confirmed she had breast cancer but pleaded for privacy.

Dr. Jerri Nielsen said in a statement Tuesday, "The diagnosis of breast cancer has been confirmed and I will undergo treatment. My spirit is strong."

"My heartfelt thanks go out to my South Pole friends, colleagues and the general public for their encouragement and best wishes during my ordeal," Nielsen said in her statement, which was released by the NSF.

"This is all of the information I am prepared to release at this time. Once again I ask that you honor mine and my family's request for privacy; therefore, we will not grant interviews. I know you will respect our wishes and I appreciate your support," Nielsen added.

Nielsen has returned to her home in Youngstown, Ohio, southeast of Cleveland.

The crew of the U.S. Air Force's C130 Hercules with Nielsen upon their return to Christchurch.

Nielsen, 47, found a lump in her breast in June, raising fears of cancer, and had been treating herself since then - including using drugs dropped by parachute in the dark polar winter in July, in a mission documented by CBS News.

Nielsen performed her own biopsy and then e-mailed photographs of slide samples to doctors in the U.S.

Despite her illness Nielsen kept busy with her duties up until she left the South Pole, said her sister-in-law, Diana Cahill.

"She didn't have time to focus on her condition at all. She's a very giving person," Cahill said.

The special, ski-equipped U.S. military plane.

Major George McAllister, who flew the rescue plane, recalled, "It was quite a jubilant crowd seeing her off from the South Pole."

"It was really exciting as we taxied up and the wind is blowing and people are all bundled up. Everybody just started jumping up and down," McAllister told CBS News Correspondent Jerry Bowen.

Theirs was the earliest flight ever to the absolute bottom of the world. "This was a special mission for us," explained Col. Graham Pritchard, mission commander, 109th Air National Guard.

She had to wait for months to be rescued, because the weather was too severe for any aircraft to land at the South Pole during the dark Antarctic winter.