ANCHORAGE -- Four-time Iditarod champion Susan Butcher, a native of Cambridge, Mass., who learned to love outdoor adventures during vacations in the woods of Maine, died yesterday in a Seattle hospital of complications from a recent bone marrow transplant.
Butcher, 51, dominated the 1,100-mile sled dog race from Anchorage to Nome in the late 1980s. In 1986, she became the second woman to win the grueling race. She added victories in 1987, 1988, and 1990, and finished in the top four through 1993.
She had arrived in Alaska in 1975 and spent most of her time in Eureka. In 1979, she helped drive the first sled-dog team to the 20,320-foot summit of Mount McKinley, the highest peak in North America.
Butcher ran her last Iditarod in 1994, when she decided to have children. She had two daughters, Tekla and Chisana, with her husband, lawyer and musher David Monson.
Butcher, who attended Buckingham Browne & Nichols School in Cambridge, won the 1999 Pioneer Award from the New England Women's Fund.
Three years ago, when she was considering a comeback, doctors found Butcher had polycythemia vera, a rare disease that causes the bone marrow to produce excess blood and that led to the development of leukemia.
She had a bone marrow transplant in May but her body rejected the transplant. Once she stabilized, she learned that the leukemia had returned.
A few days ago, she decided to undergo a fourth round of chemotherapy.
During her previous chemo treatments, Butcher daydreamed about land in the White Mountains in Alaska she and her husband bought last fall. They planned to build a bigger cabin on the land that comes with 300 miles of groomed trails -- perfect for mushing dogs -- right out the back door.
``I got the cutest, lovingest group of well-trained females. They are easy to handle and I just enjoy them," she said. ``They will be waiting for me."